Alleged ex-lover's claim muddles multimillion-dollar battle over Vegas marriage
Lawyer claims he had affair with Vancouver woman while she was married to Chinese millionaire
The tangled tale of Peipei Li's brief nuptials with a Chinese millionaire has taken a new twist — the introduction of an alleged former lover who claims he had no idea Li was married when he lavished her with $1.3 million in gifts and cash.
Lawyer Dongdong Huang has filed suit against Li, a Vancouver office administrator, for compensation for legal services provided to her and her company LPP Properties, according to a new judgment from B.C. Supreme Court.
Their legal relationship allegedly developed into a five-month fling, an affair that Huang says he ended when he discovered Li was also dating her business partner, Lu Hua Rao.
"[Huang] says that during their romantic relationship [Li] persuaded him to transfer more than $1.3 million of his money to her and various members of her family to buy gifts and make investments," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes wrote Thursday.
"He provided this money on the basis of her representations that she was single and wanted to pursue a long-term spousal relationship with him."
For her part, Li denies she was ever sexually or romantically involved with Huang, and has filed a counterclaim against him, accusing him of breaching his fiduciary duty to her, according to Schultes' judgment.
She also alleges he is colluding with Rao against her.
One whirlwind romance
Nonetheless, Huang's allegations may complicate an ongoing legal battle between Li and Rao, the wealthy Chinese businessman she married in Las Vegas in April 2016.
According to court filings, Li, who is in her early 30s, became romantically involved with the 50-something Rao while he was visiting Vancouver in August 2015.
Their union was short-lived — Li sued Rao for divorce in January 2017 after learning he was still married to a woman in China.
But before the relationship ended, Li and Rao incorporated LPP Properties, with plans of investing millions of dollars in Lower Mainland real estate.
Rao put $17.65 million into the company before the breakup, according to court documents, an amount he's suing Li to recover.
Meanwhile, Li is seeking spousal support from Rao.
An (alleged) second whirlwind romance
Huang's alleged affair with Li would have fallen smack dab in the middle of her relationship with Rao.
Huang claims the romance began in March 2016, after he'd provided her with legal services. A month later, Huang alleges Li promised him 10-15 per cent of LPP's shares in exchange for his work.
The relationship ended in August of that year, according to Huang. Li fired him the next month and told him that she did not owe him anything, according to Huang's version of events.
This week's B.C. Supreme Court judgment related to that dispute is incremental. It concerns Li's request for the return of privileged documents that Huang generated during his time working for her.
That request hinges, in part, on Li's claim that Huang is colluding with Rao in his legal fights against her. Li alleges that Huang has misused her confidential information, and is feeding details to Rao.
In Thursday's judgement, Justice Schultes wrote that "the evidence falls short of demonstrating any past impropriety by Mr. Huang," and said there is no basis to insist on the return of the papers.
The judge ordered Huang to provide the materials in question to his lawyer, who can give copies to Li's lawyer.
Connections between 2 cases
Though the judge found no evidence of collusion between Rao and Huang, there are signs the alleged affair could become a factor in the ongoing court battle between Rao and Li.
Rao had previously withdrawn a B.C. claim against Li over the $17.65 million investment, hoping the case could be heard before a Chinese arbitration commission instead.
But that attempt was stymied by a B.C. judge, who ordered Rao to hold off on any further steps involving the Chinese body.
And then, just last week, Rao launched a new suit against Li in B.C. Supreme Court. That claim does not mention the Vegas marriage, but it does appear to reference Li's alleged relationship with Huang.
It claims that Li harmed LPP's interests by "engaging in romantic and intimate relationships with persons providing professional services to the company, thus destroying the necessary element of trust between the parties."
It also accuses Li of using the company's funds for her personal benefit, and causing LPP to buy her a $7 million home in Vancouver's ritzy Shaughnessy neighbourhood with Rao's consent.
Li has yet to file a response to that claim, and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
With files from Jason Proctor