The Lemnking of the business scams

Constanta port
Lemnking, involved in shady businesses in the port of Constanta (source: riseproject.ro)

Lemnking, a Chinese business scam, worked for many years in Romania due to authorities turning a blind eye to it.

In 2004, the Social Democrat deputy Aurel Gubandru was proudly presenting within the Chamber of Deputies the effects of a visit in China made by Adrian Năstase, the social-democrat prime minister at that time.

When Năstase visited China

“The visit made by prime minister Adrian Năstase in the P. R. of China was truly successful in developing Romanian-Chinese relations, and its results will surely be quick to appear. (…) in the second part of February 2004, a delegation from the Ministry of Commerce, led by the ambassador of P. R. of China in Bucharest, His Excellency Xu Jian, made a visit in Buzău County. (…)

After the meeting at the prefecture, the Chinese delegation, which also included the representatives of the company F&J INTERNATIONAL (see dedicated article), visited three companies: the crayon factory; the cigarette factory; S.C. LEMNKING S.R.L., whose object of activity is processing and transporting wood.”

Lemnking Industry Com SRL is owned by Shanghai F&J Investment and Management Co Ltd and three individuals, Chinese citizens, connected, one way or another, to the Chinese group F&J.

Lemnking, a Chinese business scam mentioned by prosecutors

At the beginning of 2012, Lemnking Industry Com SRL was mentioned by DNA prosecutors in the file of an extended corruption network located in the Constanța port, which also included a senator and the then secretary general of the Interior Ministry. The notoriety of the latter characters helped the name of the Chinese-owned company not be noted by the media.

According to a press release issued in April 2012 by anti-corruption prosecutors, “an employee of S.C. Lemnking Industry Com S.R.L. Pârscov, Buzău was charged with the following crimes: initiating or establishing an organized criminal group or joining or supporting in any form such a group, complicity in the crime of bribery”.

The same press release also added that the said employee was providing sums of money, through intermediaries, together with other persons charged, “so that the customs workers involved would illegally allow access in the country for important containers, or allow access in the country to certain containers blocked in customs, without any legally plausible grounds.

Customs intermediaries, which were members of the group, would take over the import operations of their clients, redrafting the documents of origin for their goods, naming a ghost company as fictitious importer, reporting unlawful situations to customs commissioners and customs officers, to enable the establishment of bribery, in compliance with the group’s unwritten prices, negotiating the bribe and, in the end, paying it, sometimes through an intermediary to the customs commissioner, and other times, directly to the customs worker.”

Bribes, smuggling, high connections

In its press release, DNA also mentioned other types of illegal arrangements in which the Lemnking employee was involved: “In his turn, the culprit (…), Deputy Head of the Customs Office of Constanța South Agigea, both alone and together with some of his subordinates (…), claimed various amounts of money from several customs intermediaries and importers (…).

The money was claimed both for providing illegal access in the country to certain containers of imported goods, and for allowing access in the country to other illegally smuggled goods, instead of having them blocked in customs, without any plausible legal grounds.”

However, in August 2019, the High Court of Cassation and Justice decided the final exoneration of all those involved in the file “since the deed does not exist, the deed is not provided by the criminal law, or there is no evidence that a person has committed the crime”. The press connected this decision to the legislative changes that rendered certain evidence of the criminal files unfit to be used by the judges.

Huge debts, bankruptcy

Ever since the end of 2011, Lemnking Industry Com SRL went into insolvency, having debts to banks alone of 4.4 million dollars, 3.7 million euros and 18 million lei (over 4 million euros).

Not accidentally, in April 2012, Gao Lei, one of the individuals loyal to F&J, established the company Lemnking Wood Investment SRL, also in Pârscov, Buzău, and the committee of creditors of Lemnking Industry Com SRL, a company in insolvency, “approved (in September 2012 – n.n.) the conclusion of a lease agreement with SC LEMNKING WOOD INVESTMENT SRL, whose subject was: C15 – hall, built surface of 883,07 sm; C16 – dryer, built surface of 510,19 sm”.

In other words, the debts amounting millions of euros would remain on the insolvent company and the activity would carry on a new company, free from toxic liabilities. During the past three years (2017 – 2019), Lemnking Wood Investment SRL, although active, did not carry out any kind of activity.

However, in the end the reorganization plan of Lemnking Industry Com SRL failed and the company went bankrupt.

Lemnking, a Chinese business scam on repeat

Right before Lemnking Industry Com SRL became insolvent, F&J European Investment Development SRL and the Chinese citizen Gao Lei established (also in Pârscov, Buzău, obviously), the company Lemnking Manufactory SRL.

In October 2014, F&J European Investment Development SRL, which became a sole associate, ceded all its shares to Yong Sheng Forest Industry Filiala București SRL (whose major shareholder was Shaanxi Yongsheng Forest Development Co Ltd, Chinese company), company that took it upon itself to declare that it had no activity in year 2018, the year of its establishment.

According to the website dedicated to the operations in Romania carried out by the Chinese group F&J, “LEMNKING, part of F&J EUROPE, is a private capital company specialized in wood processing which entered Romanian market in 1996 through a consistent green field investment.

With headquarters in Bucharest (Romania’s capital), LEMNKING has established its production facilities in Parscov, Buzau County: – near to the one of the most important forest districts of Romania, the most important beech forests in the country, source for the best quality logs; – near to the main port Constanta, Romania.

This is an important logistical advantage. The factory covers a surface of over 260,000 square meters and has developed modern production, transport and storage facilities, including a large kiln drying capacity of 32 kiln driers”.

According to the data of the Ministry of Finance, Lemnking Manufactory SRL registered revenues of 7 million lei in 2019 (1.5 million euros) and a loss of 1.9 million lei (400.000 euros), with 50 employees.

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