Arsenal and BYD investigate claims fraudster facilitated groundbreaking deal for Premier League side and Chinese car giant
Questions of legitimacy arise around the agreement for the Shenzhen-based company to become the Premier League club’s car and bus partner
Arsenal Football Club says it is investigating allegations that its groundbreaking partnership with BYD Auto was facilitated by an alleged con artist acting as an employee of the company and not the Chinese electric car giant.
All seemed normal when the partnership for BYD to become the English Premier League giant’s official car and bus partner was signed in April, with the club’s chief commercial officer Vinai Venkatesham hailing “another move towards improving our contribution to environmental sustainability”.
The Warren Buffett-backed BYD is the world’s largest electric vehicle maker and employs more than 220,000 people across five continents, with Arsenal’s preseason tour to Shanghai and Beijing touted as the catalyst behind the move.
But BYD now claims the partnership, and other dealings, were the work of Li Juan, saying in a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange on Monday that it did not authorise Li to conduct business or sign contracts on its behalf.
A statement published on BYD’s website last Thursday said Li and her associates had used the name Shanghai Yuhong Culture Communication to provide free advertising and promotional activities, with Li allegedly forging the company’s seal to enter into transactions that damaged its reputation.
BYD also said Li used Yuhong “to make free and discounted offerings, to push forward advertising between BYD and Arsenal Football Club”.
The reason for this and other details remain vague, with the Premier League club saying only that it has been in contact with BYD and the deal might be fraudulent.
“BYD has informed Arsenal that they believe they have been the victim of a fraud in relation to various advertising agreements,” the club said.
“This includes our partnership with BYD, which was formally launched by both parties at an event at the club’s Emirates Stadium on May 8.
“We are investigating the situation and discussing it with senior level BYD representatives who were involved in the launch of the partnership. We will make no further comments on this matter.”
Just how a deal that was launched by “both parties” now comes to be under question remains unknown, with uncertainty surrounding the identity of “Sherry Li” – said to be BYD’s brand and public relations director – who was quoted when the deal was announced.
“This partnership shows that BYD, the Arsenal Football Club and its global fan base believe in a greener future and the deal will help us build our name here in China and around the world,” Sherry Li said.
— modernleifeng (@modernleifeng) April 23, 2018
BYD’s logo was shown on the advertising hoardings at Emirates Stadium during their match against West Ham on April 21, days before the deal was announced.
“We are hoping we can promote everything they’re doing around a greener future and encourage more people to use and consume their products,” Venkatesham said at the time.
“This is a really significant deal for us, we’ve not signed a partnership quite like this before. I think people are more interested than they ever have been around the impact they are having on the environment.”
Reports from the mainland suggest Li is being investigated by Shanghai police.