Chinese Hotel Developer Gave LA Councilman $250,000 to Gamble, Court Hears in Bribery Case

  • Bribes totaling $1.5m were allegedly made to get support for a 77-story development project
  • The politician also received $600,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit
  • Attorneys for the hotel business claim that the company never asked Huizar to do anything
  • Huizar was already found to have taken a $500,000 bribe from another real estate developer
Passing money under the table
An LA politician allegedly accepted bribes from a property developer, including $250,000 worth of casino chips. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Trying to expedite a building project

A Chinese hotel developer allegedly gave a Los Angeles City councilman $250,000 worth of gambling chips. The revelations were made during a bribery trial relating to Chinese billionaire Wei Huang’s US hotel business.

was to be the highest skyscraper on the West Coast

An ex-special assistant for former LA councilman José Huizar provided testimony on Wednesday, detailing the alleged $1.5m in bribes made to the politician by Shen Zhen New World I LLC. The bribes were allegedly made to try to garner political support for a new 77-story condominium and hotel project in Huizar’s district. It was to be the highest skyscraper on the West Coast.

Details regarding the alleged bribes

Huang is an avid gambler and regularly visited Las Vegas. He would allegedly give Huizar $10,000 worth of casino chips on these trips. If the Chinese billionaire was winning, he would often hand out more chips to his guests. In total, Huang funded over 20 trips to Sin City for Huizar.

Huizar’s former assistant explained that the politician wouldn’t go to Las Vegas if Huang was on a losing streak and that he often wanted more than $10,000. There were also claims that on the first trip in 2013, Huang provided prostitutes to the councilman. Another witness claims that a $600,000 transfer was indirectly made to Huizar to help him settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Huizar was given private jet trips, pricey meals, and luxury accommodation

Shen Zhen New World attorney Richard Steingard did not deny last week that Huizar was given private jet trips, pricey meals, and luxury accommodation, as well as $250,000 worth of casino chips. Steingard explained that as Huang is a high roller that all of these things were comped by casinos as he often lost millions of dollars through his gambling. The attorney claimed that Huang was just sharing these perks with his guests and that the company never asked the politician to do anything of consequence.

A wide-ranging investigation

The Justice Department has indicted Huang, but he has not returned to the US to face charges. Huizar’s trial is scheduled for early 2023. His former assistant, George Esparza, is the key witness in each of the three trials that have resulted from the investigations into corruption by the Justice Department.

José Huizar’s brother, wife, and mother are also set to testify as to how they helped the disgraced politician launder large sums of cash.

Huizar was allegedly using his role as a downtown LA councilman and his position as the influential LA Planning and Land Use Management Committee chairman to take bribes from developers that were looking to get projects approved. Already in 2022, another real estate developer was found guilty of paying a $500,000 bribe to Huizar to help bypass objections to a proposed downtown project.