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Marriage was designed to mislead Canadian and Chinese authorities, B.C. judge suggests in divorce ruling

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

A Vancouver judge has ruled on a couple's divorce and division of property, while also expressing concern that the marriage was actually a "commercial arrangement" intended to mislead authorities in Canada and China.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ward K. Branch granted the divorce sought by claimant Ying Zi Shen and respondent Rongren He, but prefaced his reasons with a lengthy introduction listing his concerns about the case

"Making the factual findings necessary to determine this family law matter was extremely challenging," the decision begins.

"There were clear gaps in the document production by both sides. All the witnesses testified through interpreters, and either the interpretation was poor or the parties were being evasive. Unfortunately, my assessment is that it was more the latter rather than the former."

Shen and He met in December 2016, began living together in a marriage-like relationship in April 2017, and separated in December 2018, according to the court decision. They got married in August 2017.

The decision indicates that both parties had children from previous marriages in China that ended in divorce. Shen was 49 when the couple met and He was 59.

While Shen had lived in Canada since 2007 and became a citizen in 2017, He entered the country on a tourist visa in May 2016, according to the decision. The pair were introduced to each other by an immigration consultant who was an acquaintance of each party.


"I am concerned that the parties’ marital and financial relationship was designed, in whole or in part, to mislead Canadian immigration authorities and/or Chinese currency regulators," Branch writes in his introduction.

The judge goes on to cite several reasons for this concern, writing:

• "The respondent’s divorce from his first wife in China may have been a sham, which would explain why his ex-wife continued to lend the respondent vast amounts of money after their divorce, amounts regarding which she has never demanded repayment;

• The respondent’s agreement to forego all of his property in China as part of this divorce may have been a deception, which would explain why his ex-wife would feel compelled to deliver money to the respondent after he arrived in Canada;

• The respondent’s claim that he was penniless upon his arrival in Canada may have been a charade, which would explain why his friends and relatives showered him with large cash 'gifts' after he arrived in Canada;

• The respondent’s marriage proposal to the claimant may have been more in the nature of a commercial arrangement designed to facilitate the respondent’s efforts to obtain immigration status in Canada in return for certain financial benefits, which would explain why the respondent put 99 per cent of a home in the claimant’s name even before their marriage when she contributed nothing to its purchase;

• And the collapse of the parties’ marriage may more accurately be viewed as a contractual dispute triggered by the claimant’s determination that the promised financial benefits were not provided, which may be the explanation for her 'self-help' in taking certain jewellery with her when she left."

Despite these suspicions, Branch determined the couple's relationship – whatever it was – required court orders to unwind.


The judge found that both parties had "serious credibility problems."

"Each told stories that did not accord with either the documents or common sense," the decision reads.

Branch specifically noted that Shen "gave inconsistent evidence" about who is covering her expenses now that she has returned to China, and found other evidence she gave "suspicious" or "suspiciously vague."

"Her inflows do not appear to match her outflows, particularly since her return to China," the decision reads. "This strongly suggests that she has unreported income, or other assets upon which she is drawing."

Likewise, the judge described He as "extremely argumentative, defensive, and unco-operative during his trial testimony," and found his "expressed level of naivete" with regard to his own finances "impossible to accept."

"Cumulatively, all these factors had the effect of undermining both parties’ credibility," the decision reads. "I exercise extreme caution in relation to all their evidence and rely on the documents themselves wherever possible."

Using this approach, the judge dismissed Shen's claim for spousal support, ordered that the proceeds of the sale of their home be distributed 75 per cent to He and 25 per cent to Shen, and ordered that Shen compensate He $40,400 for the jewellery she allegedly took.

"For the sake of completeness, and to address any possibility that the jewellery is actually still in the respondent’s possession (or is lost and later found), I would make an order that the respondent is to be treated as the owner of the jewellery, and that the respondent must deliver to the claimant any of the identified jewellery in his possession," the decision reads.

All other claims from both sides in the case were dismissed. Top Stories

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