A Chinese billionaire allegedly connected to the San Francisco corruption scandal that has rocked the city since 2020 has been arrested in London.
Property developer Zhang Li, the co-founder of debt-stricken Guangzhou-based R&F Properties, was arrested on Nov. 30 and put on 24-hour house arrest near the U.S. Embassy in London on Monday after posting a 15 million pounds (approximately $18.4 million) bail.
While under house arrest, Zhang, 69, must always be handcuffed to a court-appointed private security team whenever he is leaving his current place of residence to attend his hearings. Additionally, Zhang will be monitored by a London investigation and security risk firm for the duration of his stay in the apartment.
Although the owner of the building he is staying at was not disclosed, the luxury apartment is reportedly in the Thames City development co-developed by R&F and Hong Kong-listed CC Land and located in southwest London.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
The Chinese billionaire is reportedly fighting extradition to the U.S., where he would face bribery charges in connection to the bribery scandal.
Zhang, who was a Chinese government official before becoming a businessman, was embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the former director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru, between 2015 and 2020. In the original complaint filed against Nuru in January 2020, federal prosecutors noted that the former San Francisco official was bribed by “Developer 1,” later identified as Zhang, with extravagant wine and luxury hotel accommodations in exchange for project permits. Nuru was sentenced to seven years in prison for honest services wire fraud in August.
R&F Properties distanced itself from Zhang’s bribery case and said it had “no interest” in the Chinese billionaire’s Z&L Properties, Inc. The China-based company also denied reports claiming that it released 10 million pounds (approximately $12.2 million) to help pay for a portion of Zhang’s bail.
The company said in a statement on Monday that it would take “legal action” against a “false accusation” made against Zhang about providing a “banquet dinner and hotel accommodation” to Nuru.
From 2014 to 2015, Z&L Properties, Inc. reportedly bought land across California, such as in San Francisco, Fremont, Santa Clara, San Jose and Los Angeles, with the intention of building 3,400 housing units.