BRISBANE, Australia (NEWS CENTER Maine) - The Australian developer who is trying to buy Saddleback Mountain is being sued by a Chinese investor for millions of dollars.
Sebastian Monsour is accused of deceit and taking advantage of an Australian visa program.
The lawsuit, filed in December in Queensland Superior Court in Australia, says Sebastian pitched a Majella investment to Mr. Fusheng Li in January 2017, touting various accomplishments in property development, including:
- The Williston-West Church in Portland
- Saddleback Mountain
- A massive Portland waterfront project of 300 condos, retail space, and a veterans' hospital
The waterfront project doesn't exist and was never even approved by the city of Portland, according to spokesperson Jessica Grondin. We know The Saddleback Mountain sale isn't closed.
The church is up for sale and is no longer affiliated with Majella, according to an employee at the Sullivan Real Estate Group. Frank Monsour, Sebastian’s father, originally bought the church to turn it into Majella’s U.S. headquarters. It is advertised as such on the Majella website. According to the realty group selling the building, the 81-year-old Frank Monsour is looking to sell and is no longer affiliated with the Majella Group. He is selling 2 commercial condos and 5 residential condos, the cheapest of which is on the market for $650,000.
These overstated accomplishments by Sebastian Monsour are just minor details in the grand scheme of this lawsuit. Accusations of lying, stealing money, and abusing a foreign visa program are at the heart of this suit - which is still ongoing in Australia.
Chinese businessman Fusheng Li claims Sebastian Monsour owes him $5 million.
Mr. Li wanted to bring his business and his family to Australia. He did so through the country's significant investor program, by wiring $5 million to Sebastian Monsour's company.
According to the lawsuit, that money was supposed to be invested in specific visa-compliant programs.
The Australian significant-investor visa program is similar to the US EB-5 program, where foreign investors can create U.S. jobs and qualify for a green card. That's a program that Sebastian Monsour at one time took interest in regarding Saddleback Mountain.
In a leaked audio recording from September sent to NEWS CENTER Maine by a former Majella contractor, Monsour said in a staff meeting, “The EB-5 program is the reason we are actually buying Saddleback. The mountain and opening the mountain is something we would like to achieve, but if we don't, we are not going to lose any sleep with regards to it.”
Monsour said in an email Wednesday that he is finalizing “funding arrangements” to close the sale and reopen Saddleback, and that the plans do “not include the EB-5 program.”
As for multiple lawsuits, Monsour says he does “not comment on ongoing legal disputes.”
In the case with the Chinese businessman, Mr. Li says he "trusted Monsour" at first, but knew something was wrong when he didn't get the interest payments he was owed.
The court ordered Sebastian Monsour to tell the businessman what he had done with his $5 million.
The answer: property projects in Brisbane, Majella payroll, and corporate payments. According to court documents, Monsour also sent $400,000 to his U.S. office for land and development, travel salaries, payroll, and other various expenses.
Mr. Li says none of this is what he agreed to, and is suing to get his $5 million back.
Court documents in this lawsuit include Majella's proposed plans for Saddleback Mountain. This is the first we've seen of these private plans since the sale was announced 9 months ago. They are included as an exhibit, because Monsour allegedly used them in his presentation of Majella’s accomplishments when recruiting Mr. Li as an investor.