Billboard suitor Xian Gaza: CEO or scammer?

MANILA, Philippines – Xian Gaza entered the internet’s collective consciousness when he asked actress Erich Gonzales out on a date by commissioning a billboard in Morayta, Manila. 

By now, however, the initial debate on whether Gaza’s grand gesture was cute or creepy has evolved into an entirely different conversation as questions about Gaza’s past business deals surfaced.

Gaza was initially described as a young CEO, a title he uses on his social media bios. On Facebook, Gaza says he is the president and CEO of Guanxiqian Group. He has also mentioned starting the Gazaboy Group of Companies, as well as Gazera Media. 

Aside from being the CEO or founder of these companies, Gaza has also been linked to "The Haiyan Shirt Project" as well as a civet coffee business. 

As Gaza rose to internet fame, his various business ventures have been called into question. Several people claimed that Gaza scammed them.

Here's a look at the businesses he's been linked to and what the people who had worked with him had to say. 

Haiyan Shirt Project

Shortly after Gaza’s billboard went viral, Twitter user Dewanie Catapang (@waniedoo) took to the platform, alleging that Gaza scammed her when she worked with him on “The Haiyan Shirt Project."

“It was good at the start, I really thought everything was legit [because] he even rented an expensive house as our headquarters!” Catapang tweeted.

She shared that she and her colleagues eventually became suspicious when Gaza would allegedly skirt questions about how the project was going. She said that she did not get paid for her work on the project.

Gaza responded to Catapang in a July 4 statement on his Facebook page, saying that the project never took off because money from his investors didn't come in. Gaza said he even lost P300,000 on the project.

Gazera Media

Event producer Ryan Salcedo Tañada took to Facebook on July 4 to talk about his dealings with Gaza. Tañada said he met Gaza when he was setting up an event with community page Filipino Vines. At the time, Gaza was associated with Filipino Vines through a company called Gazera Media.

Filipino Vines managing director Bryan Franco told Rappler that Gazera Media was formed when Gaza approached the page's owner, Walter de Vera, and suggested that they turn Filipino Vines into a business.  Together, they put up Gazera, which was supposed to handle the sales and marketing side of Filipino Vines.

Gazera Media is not listed with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Gaza said in his July 4 Facebook statement that he put out P1.7 million in capital and also spent 8 months' worth of operation expenses to fund Gazera.

It was through Gazera that Tañada ended up meeting Gaza, who asked the event producer for P200,000 as downpayment for the talent fees of artists to be hired for Tañada's event. 

However, Tañada later found out that the money was not given to the artists. Gaza admitted this, saying that he used the amount instead to fund the operating expenses of Gazera. 

Civet coffee business

Franco clarified that Filipino Vines did not know about the botched transaction until Tañada himself told them about it. At that point, they realized that Gaza appeared to be using Gazera Media and its connection with Filipino Vines for his own business. 

“Instead of selling the page [Filipino Vines], sinell niya 'yung business niyang sarili (he promoted his own business),” Franco told Rappler, adding that Gaza also asked Filipino Vines' talents to invest in a civet coffee business.

Yung investment talaga na kinukuha niya is hindi for Filipino Vines  (the investment he was getting was not really for Filipino Vines) but for his coffee business,” Franco said.

Comedian Ogie Diaz was among those Gaza approached to invest, though Diaz said in a July 4 statement on his Facebook page that he eventually pulled out of the deal to pay for a property he acquired.

“Yes, inalok niya akong investor sa civet coffee business niya, pero nag-pull out po ako ng investment (with interest gain naman) dahil kailangan ko ng pera para sa isang property na deadline na for full payment about two weeks ago (Yes, he invited me to invest in his civet coffee business, but I pulled out, with interest gain, because I needed the money for a property; the deadline for full payment was about two weeks ago)” Diaz said.

While Diaz did not have any problems with Gaza, other investors reportedly did not get their money back.

Tañada, who also gave Gaza P100,000 for the coffee business, said he will not press charges.

"I don't think I'm in the position to press charges as he settled his debts with me just like what I said in my post...The best thing I can do is to make the public informed about him and his shenanigans," he told Rappler.

Gazaboy Group and a P13.9 million debt

If other parties were to press charges, however, it would not be a first for Gaza, who said on Facebook that he was facing 14 criminal cases.

In a now-deleted post dated June 20, Gaza said that he unintentionally got involved in a pyramid scam, technically making him a “former scammer."

“I went into extreme depression and tried different unpleasant outlets, and as a result, things got really way worse for me, and [I] unknowingly got involved in a Malaysian pyramid scam syndicate operating in Metro Manila. I became a victim ‘distributor’ and technically, yes, a FORMER SCAMMER,” he wrote.

 Screengrab from Facebook.com/xiangaza

He also said that because of this, he had become the subject of death threats, court subpoenas, and warrants of arrest. He did not disclose the status of any of his criminal cases.

At the same time, Gaza shared in a since-deleted Facebook post that he founded the Gazaboy Group of Companies at the age of 18.

Two businesses – Gazaboy Incorporated and Gazaboy Ventures Corporation – can be found in SEC’s records, registered under Gaza's name. Both businesses were registered with the SEC in 2013.

It is unclear what Gaza’s involvement in the companies are today, as he said that decisions he made as CEO of Gazaboy caused him to be buried in debt amounting to millions of pesos.

“I executed a series of wrong decisions both in business and in my personal life that led to my downfall. I lost a total of P13,995,000 at the age of 20 and am still paying my former partners and investors up to this day [and] until early 2019 – a total of P250,000 every month since 2014,” he wrote in the June 22 post.

 Screengrab from Facebook.com/xiangaza


Guanxiqian Group

At present, Gaza says he is the president and CEO of the Guanxiqian Group, a company that is supposedly based in Hong Kong and deals with hedge funds, according to several Facebook posts of Gaza that have been deleted.

No website or contact information on the company can be found publicly online, though an unverified Facebook page called "Guanxiqian Hedge Fund" based in Hong Kong appears.

No record of Guanxiqian Group can be traced with the SEC, though this may be because it is based abroad. 

‘False bankruptcy’

In another statement on his Facebook page dated July 5, Gaza apologized to Filipino Vines' De Vera, and to a certain Mr Salvador, a Mr. Ledesma, and his former employees and partners. In the statement, he admitted that he “twisted the truth” about his financial status.

“I declared personal bankruptcy on all your ears and made all of you believe that everything that your eyes can see now are mere fake high-profiling agenda, all for my personal selfish interest,” Gaza said.

“I can't find it worth it anymore to financially support and compensate all of you so I decided to stop the financial bleeding on my end by declaring a false bankruptcy. I saw all of you as a baggage and not as my personal asset so I moved forward all alone last January 2017 towards to what I am today here in Guanxiqian,” Gaza added.

 

He said in another July 5 post that those who want to claim a legal settlement for damages may approach him and his lawyers at any time. 

Gaza has since emptied his public social media accounts of all but a few posts, though he recently shared updates of his travels in Jerusalem.

Amid the controversies, he maintains that all he wants is the one thing he asked for that got him to this point in the first place: a coffee date with Erich Gonzales.

Ang tanging hangad ko lang po ay kape (all I want is coffee) with Erich with no hidden personal agenda at all. Hindi ko naman po aakalaing magiging national at international news ang billboard effort ko para umabot po sa ganito (I didn't expect that my billboard effort would make national and international news). I just wanna show her how much I like her and using this billboard effort to possibly create an initial friendship with her over coffee,” he said in his July 4 statement.

Rappler has reached out to Gaza for comment, but has received no reply as of posting. – Rappler.com

Amanda T. Lago

After avoiding long-term jobs in favor of travelling the world, Amanda finally learned to commit when she joined Rappler in July 2017. As a lifestyle and entertainment reporter, she writes about music, culture, and the occasional showbiz drama. She also hosts Rappler Live Jam, where she sometimes tries her best not to fan-girl on camera.

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