U.S. alleges Metro Vancouver homes were part of scheme to launder money embezzled in China

In early 2012, a few months after she left China for a new life as an immigrant investor in the United States, Shi Lan Zhao flew to Metro Vancouver, bought a numbered B.C. company and began searching for properties in which to invest.

Flush with money that she and her ex-husband, Jianjun Qiao, had moved from China through banks in China, Hong Kong and Canada, Zhao first bought a Richmond condo, paying for it outright. A few months later, on a return trip, she bought a five-bedroom White Rock home, also paying for it outright.

Zhao, 51, moved easily between B.C. and her home outside Bellevue in Washington state, making at least 20 trips since 2011. She became familiar to real estate agents and people at the Vancouver company that managed her properties and the banks where she and Qiao kept accounts.

But U.S. and Chinese investigators now suspect the money for the Metro homes purchases came from an embezzlement scheme that was just one part of a massive corruption and bribery operation that nearly crippled the China Grain Reserves Corporation, also known as Sinograin…