B.C. judge orders Chinese millionaire to show money to non-wife

A B.C. judge has ordered a Chinese multimillionaire to provide documentation of his finances to a Vancouver woman bent on seeking spousal support in the aftermath of their short-lived Vegas wedding.

Judge finds woman in nullified marriage still has right to claim for millionaire's money

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered Chinese millionaire Lu Hua Rao to provide an accounting of his finances to a Vancouver woman he married in Las Vegas. ((Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press))

A B.C. judge has ordered a Chinese multimillionaire to provide documentation of his finances to a Vancouver woman bent on seeking spousal support in the aftermath of their short-lived Vegas wedding.

Peipei Li sued Lu Hua Rao for divorce after learning he was still married to his wife in China. But not before the pair partnered on a $20 million deal to invest in Lower Mainland real estate.

One B.C. Supreme Court justice had already thwarted Rao's plans to have their break-up battle heard by a Chinese arbitration commission, as opposed to a Canadian divorce court.

Now, another has ruled that Li both has the right to seek spousal entitlements from their split and that Rao has three weeks to provide a complete picture of his wealth.

"This finding only relates to the right of the claimant to make a claim for spousal support and property division," Justice Carla Forth wrote in her decision.

"It does not in any way impact on whether there is any merit in these claims in the context of the facts of this unique case."

She would be 'his woman'

Forth's decision details a whirlwind romance that began in August 2015, when Li — who is in her early 30s — met Rao while he was on a trip to Vancouver.

Rao, who was in his 50s, had a wife and two sons back in China.

The pair went on dates and started corresponding via WeChat, a Chinese social media app.

"Ms. Li deposes that shortly after meeting, Mr. Rao told her that he had fallen in love with her and that he would buy her a house in Vancouver with the view that she would be 'his woman,' they have a baby, and start a life together," the decision reads.

"She states that she inquired as to his marital status, and that he was separated from his wife and soon to be divorced."

In September 2015, Rao bought Li a 1.28 carat diamond engagement ring, worth $34,400 during a trip to Seattle. The pair also allegedly incorporated a real estate firm and agreed Rao would contribute $20 million in exchange for half the company's shares.

PeiPei Li and Lu Hua Rao tied the knot in Las Vegas in 2016. But things fell apart when Li learned that Rao already had a wife in China. (Sam Morris/Las Vegas Sun via Associated Press)

Li claimed that the following April Rao asked her to marry him as soon as possible and that he would buy her a house within a year" and that he had divorced his wife." But Rao swore he told her twice that he was married and unwilling to divorce.

Regardless, the pair travelled to Vegas that month and got married.

An 'enormous' undertaking

The court ruling says the pair opened a joint bank account in August 2016 and looked at houses worth up to $22 million. Li ultimately settled on a property that required a $1 million downpayment.

At the same time, Li asked Rao for proof of his divorce so she could include him as her spouse on her Canadian permanent residency application. This is where things fell apart.

"Rao refused to give her a divorce certificate and stated that he did not wish to immigrate to Canada," the ruling says.

Rao asked for the $17.6 million he had transferred to Canada back, suing Li for the money. And Li filed for "divorce, division of property and spousal support."

The marriage has been declared "void ab initio" — a Latin term that translates into void from the outset. As such, Rao argued the pair were never spouses under B.C.'s Family Law Act and that she was entitled to nothing.

Forth disagreed, finding that the law was not meant to exclude void marriages. She also found that Li has the right to seek a division of property, which means that Rao has to provide an accounting of his wealth — a task described as "an expensive ... and enormous undertaking given the complexity of his finances."

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.