A Chinese real estate development company was found guilty of paying a Los Angeles city council member more than $1 million in bribes in exchange for support in constructing a 77-story skyscraper. The bribes included expensive trips, expensive meals, and prostitutes.
The company, namely Shen Zhen New World I LLC, is owned by 57-year-old Chinese billionaire Wei Huang, now a fugitive believed to be in China.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the company was found guilty of all eight bribery-related counts on Thursday, November 10. The sentencing hearing for the company is scheduled for January next year. Shen Zhen New World I might face a multimillion-dollar fine.
The accused, former councilman José Huizar and former Deputy Mayor Raymond Chan, have pleaded not guilty and will go to trial next year.
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According to the news release, former City Councilman José Huizar represented the hotel’s district and led the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee. This committee oversaw significant development projects across the city.
In 2018, the Chinese development company asked the Los Angeles City Planning Department for permission to turn the hotel into the tallest mixed-use skyscraper west of the Mississippi River.
For five years before the application was filed, the company bribed Huizar and his assistant, George Esparza.
The bribes include “cash, casino gambling chips, flights on private jets and commercial airlines, stays at luxury Las Vegas hotels and casinos, expensive meals, spa services, prostitution services (and) political contributions.”
Shen Huizar and his assistant also receive stays in presidential suites and private villas, rides in Rolls-Royce limousines, bottle service at Las Vegas nightclubs, shark fin soup dinners, and wine reaching $10,000 for a battle.
In addition, the company also gave Huizar $600,000 as collateral to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit in private.
For all the bribes, Shen Zhen New World I tried to persuade” Huizar to vote in favor of its development project in the planning committee, speed up the approval process and improve Huang’s reputation among city government officials.