The Real Deal Miami

321 North manager accused of misappropriating $49M

Federal lawsuit claims Wei Chen couldn't account for project funds
May 20, 2014 10:30AM

Rendering of lobby at 321 North University Drive

Rendering of lobby at 321 North University Drive

The redevelopment of the shuttered Fashion Mall in Plantation could be tied up in litigation for a while.

A Chinese company with an 80 percent stake in the mall property filed a federal lawsuit in Fort Lauderdale against project manager and minority owner Wei Chen earlier this month. Tangshan Ganglu Iron & Steel Co. accused Chen of misappropriating nearly $49 million of its funds. The ownership started construction on the $400 million project, 321 North, in February.

Chen could not account for most of $50 million Ganglu loaned to his company, Mapuche, to help pay for the project in 2012, according to the complaint.

“Chen has damaged the reputation of Mapuche and has caused a loss of confidence in Mapuche’s ability to complete the mall project,” the suit said.

Benjamin Olive, Chen’s attorney, responded to the lawsuit by claiming Fort Lauderdale is not the appropriate venue for the case because both parties are citizens of China, according to the South Florida Business Journal.

The mall site is located at 321 North University Drive. [South Florida Business Journal]Eric Kalis