The Australian executive planning to buy Saddleback Mountain Resort in Rangeley is finding himself at the heart of more controversy as news emerged this week in Australian and U.S. media that he and certain of his companies are being sued by a Chinese investor alleging they misused millions of dollars paid to them.
The case filed last December against Sebastian Monseur, CEO of the Majella Group, and Majella Capital Funds Management in the Supreme Court of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, seeks money from various Majella companies by Chinese entrepreneur Li Fusheng, who reportedly invested 5 million Australian dollars with Majella.
It is not clear whether the case will impact Majella’s efforts to buy Saddleback, nor whether any of the alleged missing money was used for Saddleback’s upkeep.
However, Monsour wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News Friday that he still plans to go forward with the Saddleback purchase.
“While we cannot comment on the Mr. Li legal case and it is clear both parties disagree on the details, I would like to state that we are all working to resolve the matter,” he wrote. “We are still committed to Saddleback and the deal.”
Australian newspaper The Courier Mail reported earlier this week that Li is accusing Monsour and other Majella entities of “misleading and deceptive conduct” over the use of the 5 million Australian dollars. In a separate story Friday, the newspaper reported fraud police are examining the allegations against Majella.
Li reportedly is arguing he paid Monsour and his Majella companies 5 million to be invested in specific projects and entities that qualify for that country’s visa program, but Li is questioning whether the money was spent as intended.
On Thursday, Portland NBC affiliate WCSH reported that as part of the exhibits in the lawsuit, Monsour reportedly told Li that his accomplishments with real estate developments included the Williston-West Church in Portland, Saddleback Mountain and a massive waterfront project in Portland.
The news station said the waterfront project was not approved by the city of Portland, the sale of Saddleback isn’t closed and the church for sale is no longer affiliated with Majella.
Asked to comment on the projects, Monsour said he was exploring them at the time he mentioned them to Li.
“With regards to the mentioned documents and projects, at the time of our offering we were discretely, and in commercial in confidence, investigating all projects mentioned in the documentation,” he wrote. “While ultimately unsuccessful in the Portland waterfront project, we are more than pleased with the agreement reached for Saddleback, a project of far more significance and which is our sole focus within the USA.”
Li is the director of a medical company, the TOMI Group. He set up an Australian subsidiary in Brisbane, and brought his family to settle there on a Significant Investment visa, which is similar to the U.S. EB-5 visa program. The minimum payment for a Significant Investment visa is 5 million Australian dollars.
The EB-5 visa became an issue for Monsour after a local Maine television station received a copy of an audiotape claiming to be of Monsour telling staffers, “The EB-5 program is the reason we are actually buying Saddleback.”
He has since denied to the Bangor Daily News that he intended to use the EB-5 program to fund his purchase of Saddleback. He has not closed on the property and is currently seeking financing.
Meanwhile, the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit group that had bid to buy the mountain a couple years ago, continues to look for an opening to buy the resort, its spokeswoman, Crystal Canney, first told the Bangor Daily News on March 15.
“We meet monthly should an opportunity arise for the mountain to become available for purchase,” she said, describing the foundation as a group of people passionate about the mountain. “We are in a good situation to take advantage of that.”
Follow the Bangor Daily News Business Page on Twitter @BDNbiz.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.