SIX NATIONS – Questions over a lack of due diligence on the part of Brant County
Council, Brantford Council and the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) are beginning to emerge regarding land bankers Walton International, who are indirectly involved in the controversial land transfer between Brant and Brantford.
Walton International, which has been buying Brant area farmland in recent years, is planning to sell the parcel of land involved in the county/city land transfer. They plan on selling the land to developers for a housing development on the site of the former village of the Tutelo Indians, known today as Tutela Heights.
SNEC has entered agreements with Walton, as have Brantford and Brant. But have any of those councils done due diligence in investigating their waiting-in-the-wings business partner?
Walton refuses to speak to the traditional Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) or the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI), but SNEC has approved (in principle) two agreements, subject to the community engagement process.
If SNEC agrees, a definitive legal contract will be drawn up, according to Walton representative John Tlasteirs, Executive VP of Real Estate.
But after similar community sessions in Brant and Brantford, it appears the vast majority of people of Six Nations, Brant, and Brantford in attendance are saying no to the transfer, or at least the Tutela Heights portion of it.
At a recent community meeting at Six Nations Community Hall, the Two Row Times asked Tlasteirs if there is — or has ever been — off-shore money, primarily Malaysian, involved in the Tutela Heights land acquisition. He said definitively “no.”
However, official land registry documents associated with Walton have surfaced, showing the transfer of parcels of Tutela Heights and Martin Tract land near Cainsville to hundreds of Malaysian investors.
This arrangement seems to parallel the practices of other speculators and land bankers under investigation for buying up Canadian farmland, using investment packages of $10,000 or more per share, assigned to off shore entities who have no intention of ever living on or even seeing Tutela Heights.
The land banker then sells lots to Canadian developers and builders at inflated rates. They then sell to Canadian families. There is enough profit to pay the original off-shore investors two, three or even four times what they invested in a very short time, long before the land is put up for sale to Canadian buyers, after builders and developers take their cut.
These Malaysian investors will likely not have been told anything about Indigenous land claims.
How this practice works was spelled out in a 2010 court action involving Walton in Malaysia after a dispute between two of Walton’s top Asian executives.
According to the court case Walton International Group (Singapore) Pte Ltd and others v Yau Kwok Seng Winston and another  SGHC 144 found on www.singaporelaw.sg, “The plaintiffs (Walton) are in the business of land banking. Their business involves the purchase of large tracts of strategically located agricultural or undeveloped land near or within city limits of various North American cities in anticipation of their future development. The plaintiffs’ clients may purchase direct undivided interests in the land and become tenants in common of the entire tract of land with other purchasers (in this case Malaysian investors). They may also purchase direct securities in the form of shares in companies or limited partnerships formed to purchase securities in the form of shares in companies or limited partnerships formed to purchase and hold the land. When urban development encroaches upon the said properties, the properties are sold, usually to a developer, and clients who have invested in the said properties receive a return on their investments.”
The following is a Press Release from the Central Bank of Malaysia to its customers:
“Bank Negara Malaysia Raids Walton International Property Group
On 5, March, 2009, Bank Negara Malaysia raided Walton International Property Group (M) Sdn Bhd under the Exchange Control Act (ECA) 1953. The raids were conducted simultaneously at the premises of the company in Kuala Lumpur (W. Persekutuan), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) and Kuching (Sarawak) following complaints received from members of the Asian public. Relevant documents of the company were seized for purpose of the investigation. Members of the public are advised to be cautious of this type of land banking schemes promoted by the company (Walton). Any elements of deposit-taking activities and public offerings such as ‘interest schemes’ or investment in real estates schemes (better known as ‘real estate investment trusts’ – REITs) should be referred to the appropriate authorities such as Bank Negara Malaysia,”
All three Malaysian offices involved in the raids have since been closed.
Brantford maintains it needs to expand its boundaries under the Ontario Government’s “Places to Grow” legislation, and will push this transfer through despite public outcry.