Chinese Billionaire Developer Lavished $1.5million Bribes on Vegas-loving LA Councilman

14 Nov

A Los Angeles court has heard claims that a city councilman accepted bribes totalling more than $1.5million from a highrolling Chinese gambler, including $250k of casino chips and $600k to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Now-disgraced LA councilman José Huizar is said to have been bribed in return for using his influence to support Chinese billionaire Wei Huang’s plans for a 77-storey redevelopment of the L.A. Grand Hotel in downtown L.A.

Prostitutes and casino chips

The shocking revelations, including claims that Huizar was treated to more than 20 trips to Las Vegas including being greeted by a “lineup of prostitutes for their choosing”, came during the federal trial against Huang, described as a “fugitive” and believed to be in China.

As chairman of the LA Planning and Land Use Management Committee chairman, Huizar was allegedly bribed to use his influence to get support for the development plans of Huang’s Shen Zhen New World I company.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Castañeda opened the prosecution case against Huang by claiming the billionaire’s company lavished expensive gifts, flights, meals and trips on Huizar.

“The stream of bribes turned into a flood” said Castañeda, citing a 10-day trip to Australia and visits to golf resorts, as well as luxury suites, cash and private gambling in Las Vegas hotels.

Huizar’s former assistant, George Esparza, testified that his former boss would regularly be given $10k of casino chips during his visits to Las Vegas. Esparza revealed that Huizar would refuse to go if Huang was on a losing streak, as the Chinese billionaire was known to hand out more when winning.

The prosecution also claim that Huizar and Esparza were offered a “lineup of prostitutes for their choosing” during the Vegas visits, adding: “It would become a recurring theme of their trips together.”

Family used for money laundering

Huizar’s mother, brother and wife are among the 14 witnesses federal prosecutors will call to give evidence, his wife Richelle Rios expected to testify that she helped to launder the alleged bribes.

“Huizar consistently concealed the benefits he received, and his relationship with Mr. Wei Huang tends to demonstrate that Huizar understood that the money he received was for a corrupt purpose,” according to the federal prosecutors’ pre-trial memo.

Defense counsel for Shenzhen New World, Richard M. Steingard, said that L.A. city officials “universally loved” Huang’s redevelopment project, and “there was no reason to bribe anyone” to approve it.

The trial continues.

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