(Yicai Global) Dec. 14 – The billionaire chairman of Chinese property firm Guangzhou R&F Properties, who was recently arrested in the UK on allegations of bribery in the US, is likely to be extradited to the US, the president of the UK Society of Chinese Lawyers told Yicai Global.
Zhang Li was arrested in London on November 30. Zhang, who is also a co-founder of the company, was accused of bribery for hosting a banquet in China and offering lodging to the former head of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works. This was announced by R&F based in Guangzhou on December 12.
Zhang is taking legal action against the false claims, R&F added. He has since been released on £15m (US$18.4m) bail.
The US and UK governments have a bilateral extradition treaty that represents an “unequal” agreement, Zhu said. To extradite someone from the UK to the US a ‘probable cause’ is required, but to extradite someone from the US to the UK only ‘reasonable suspicion’ is required. A “probable cause” is stronger than a suspicion and represents a reasonable basis.
Whether Zhang is extradited or not is up to the judge, Zhu said. The judge can refuse if he thinks that Zhang’s personal rights are being violated or if Zhang has health problems.
But Zhang is likely to be deported, Zhu said. About 135 people have been extradited from the UK to the US since 2007, when the deal went into effect, and 99 of them were linked to nonviolent crimes, he added.
Zhang now lives in an apartment in the Thames City building that R&F once owned jointly. R&F and CC Land Holdings bought the building in 2017 for £470 million (US$580 million). Amid a liquidity crisis, R&F sold its 50 percent stake to Hong Kong-based CC Land for HK$2.7 billion (US$347 million) in April.
Yicai Global visited the landmark development along the Thames. The building has around 500 apartments and many of the apartment owners entering and exiting the building looked East Asian. One of the receptionists even speaks fluent Mandarin.
An employee who has worked at the apartment block for two years told Yicai Global that he had never seen Zhang and did not know where he was.
Zhang co-founded R&F in 1993 with Hong Kong billionaire Li Sze Lim. In 2010, he was ranked 556th on Forbes World Billionaires List and ranked 15th on New Fortune China Billionaire’s List in 2013 with CNY22.3 billion (US$3.2 billion). .
R&F has grown into one of the leading real estate companies in southern China under Zhang’s leadership. The company had sales of more than CNY130 billion (US$18.6 billion) in 2020 but later faced liquidity problems and defaulted on payments. The company stabilized its situation by selling assets and completing a debt restructuring.
Publisher: Shi Yi, Kim Taylor