Skip to main content

Chinese Real Estate Tycoon Arrested in London Over SF Corruption Case

Written by Han LiPublished Dec. 14, 2022 • 12:05pm
Chairman of Guangzhou's R&F Properties Li Zhang is pictured in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Jan. 4, 2017. | Xinhua/Sovannara via Getty Images | Source: Xinhua/Sovannara via Getty Images

A Chinese billionaire developer was reportedly arrested in London two weeks ago and faces extradition to the U.S. for trial over his alleged involvement in a San Francisco corruption case.

Li Zhang, 69, the co-founder and owner of the Guangzhou-based, Hong Kong-listed R&F Properties, is accused of bribing San Francisco officials to obtain construction project permits.

The arrest marks the latest fallout in the Mohammed Nuru case, which has caused political earthquakes in San Francisco since 2020. 

In the original complaint against Nuru, the former director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works, federal prosecutors said that Nuru was treated by a “Developer 1” with luxury hotel accommodations and expensive wines in exchange with benefits for a project. The “Developer 1” is identified as Zhang in multiple media reports.

Nuru was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Members of San Francisco Public Works conduct tree chipping near San Francisco City Hall on Dec. 28, 2017. | Courtesy Department of Public Works

R&F Properties acknowledged that Zhang picked up the hotel tab for a person in charge of the Department of Public Works, but denied the bribery claim, saying on its WeChat account that “the company is taking legal actions against the false allegation.”

According to South China Morning Post, R&F Properties told the Hong Kong stock exchange earlier this week that it had “no interest” in the San Francisco project, which is built by Z&L Properties, a separate company owned by Zhang.

Zhang is well-known in the Chinese-speaking world with a name that often appears on lists of wealthiest individuals—so his arrest triggered a wave of news coverage in Chinese-language media.

Zhang is said to be fighting the extradition while under supervised release in London, where he’s held on a record-breaking $18.4 million (£15 million) bail.

Han Li can be reached at

A person walks down a sidewalk toward a large glass-fronted building.

Faculty at San Francisco State To Strike Tuesday in Push for 12% Pay Hike

Facade of the U.S. Treasury Department building.

Treasury Launches Fentanyl Trafficking Strike Force as U.S. and China Pursue Crackdown

Two airplanes parked on a runway with mountains in the background.

Alaska Airlines To Buy Hawaiian Airlines in $1.9B Deal

Members of the school system's maintenance group known as Common Crafts will picket outside school district facilities beginning at 6 a.m. on Monday. | Photo by Camille Cohen

San Francisco School District Reaches Deal With Trade Workers, Averting Strike

A large body of water set against a dam and green landscape

After Dry Fall, California To Allocate Just 10% of Water Supply Requests