fbpx As a Chinese Billionaire Illegally Donated to Adams, His Ex-Wife Built Her Own Bridges To The Mayor - Documented

As a Chinese Billionaire Illegally Donated to Adams, His Ex-Wife Built Her Own Bridges To The Mayor

Emma Liu, who still lived with the billionaire Hui Qin after their divorce, showered the mayor with contributions and was named to his Asian Affairs Advisory Council

This story was reported in partnership with THE CITY

Mayor Eric Adams this week described the Chinese billionaire who pleaded guilty to federal charges of making more than $10,000 in illegal donations to three political candidates as one of the “thousands upon thousands of people” he met during his 2021 campaign for mayor.

Adams has not disputed a report that he was one of the three recipients of the campaign donations fraudulently made by 56-year-old billionaire Hui Qin. But Adams’ ties to Qin and Qin’s now-former wife, Emma Liu, are deeper than a single meeting on the campaign trail, publicly available records indicate.

According to a bio posted on the site of an arts and culture nonprofit she chairs, 

Liu, to whom Qin was married for more than a decade, was tapped by the mayor’s office to serve on Adams’ Asian Affairs Advisory Council.

The advisory council was formed in 2022 under the leadership of Adams’ director of Asian Affairs, Winnie Greco, whose two homes in The Bronx were raided last month by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That probe also targeted a Queens shopping mall where THE CITY and Documented had discovered evidence of other illegal donations to the mayor’s 2021 campaign. 

Adams’ friend Robin Mui, publisher of the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily newspaper and chair of a fundraising group behind Adams’ and Greco’s long push for an ornamental “friendship archway” in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, serves on the Asian Affairs Advisory Council and also on the board of the arts group Liu founded and chairs, CivilizASIAN.

Liu and Qin divorced in China in 2021, according to a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit he filed against Liu earlier this month, but continued to share households, including two penthouse apartments at the Plaza Hotel that Qin said he purchased for a combined $61.7 million in 2017 and 2019. 

They both donated $1,000 to Adams’ mayoral campaign in March 2021, city Campaign Finance Board records show.

Liu also donated $5,000 to Adams’ transition in December 2021, which along with dozens of other donations, was returned after the transition’s culminating event — a grand inaugural celebration — was canceled because of COVID.

A photo of a Greco-organized fundraising event at the New World Mall’s banquet hall that coincides with the date of Liu’s donation shows Liu standing in close proximity to Adams, as does a photo from the mayor’s official feed from a February, 2022 Lunar New Year event at Gracie Mansion. THE CITY previously reported the account of a businessperson who alleged that Greco demanded a $10,000 contribution to a nonprofit she founded in order to attend that event. 

Liu, whose bio lists her as an investor and a philanthropist involved with science and health research among other causes, says she was also crowned Miss China in 2006. She donated both times under her Chinese name, Duo Liu, listing the address of a home she and Qin shared in Old Westbury, L.I. 

The pair also shared the two penthouses at the Plaza overlooking Central Park. Qin’s lawsuit seeks to stop Liu from selling the units, which she attempted to sell earlier this year while he was in federal detention for $70 million and then marked down to $60 million —  “at a loss and significantly below market price,” the complaint alleges.

Qin pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to agreeing to reimburse others who made contributions on his behalf in 2021 and 2022 to the campaigns of an unnamed candidate for citywide office in New York City, a member of Congress and a candidate for a congressional seat in Rhode Island, according to the office of the U.S. Attorney in New York’s Eastern District, Breon Peace.

Eric Adams at Gracie Mansion for a Lunar New Year celebration, Feb. 8, 2022. Emma Liu is seen in the right corner of the photo. Credit Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

The New York Times identified the New York City candidate as Adams, based on a source, and Adams acknowledged having encountered Qin when asked at a press conference Tuesday.

“He’s one of those people who I’ve met while on the campaign trail — the thousands upon thousands of people that I interacted with from different walks of life in a very unique Eric Adams type of way, and he’s one of them,” Adams subsequently said.

Peace’s office said $11,600 in contributions were made on Qin’s behalf to the three candidates via what’s known as “straw donations,” which are illegal, but noted that none of the campaigns were aware of Qin’s reimbursement deals.

Qin also pleaded guilty on Monday to fraudulently obtaining a green card, with Liu’s assistance, as well as a Florida driver’s license.

An attorney for Qin in the federal case, Jim Miskiewicz, of Greenberg Traurig, declined to comment on the case or on Qin’s relationship to Adams.

Probes and Convictions

Qin’s plea adds to the number of convictions and known investigations tied to alleged straw donations to the 2021 and 2025 Adams’ campaigns.

Three people, including a former NYPD deputy inspector who has been friendly with Adams over the years, have pleaded guilty in a straw donation scheme being prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

The FBI has reportedly been investigating other potential instances of illegal donations involving foreign nationals from Turkey, while THE CITY, Documented and Guardian U.S. last month identified apparent straw donations to Adams’ re-election bid.

In August, THE CITY and Documented highlighted potential straw donations during Adams’ 2021 campaign tied to fundraising out of the New World Mall in Flushing, the site of the FBI raid last month.

City Hall spokesperson Charles Lutvak said Liu isn’t currently listed as a member of the Asian Affairs Advisory council, but couldn’t immediately confirm whether she served previously, as she said she has.

The group had its first meeting in August 2022, which Adams hosted, but has otherwise had little public presence. 

“The very first Asian Affairs Advisory Council for Mayor Eric Adams will serve as a bridge between city government and Asian American & Pacific Islander communities across the five boroughs,” the mayor’s office was quoted as saying in an article published by a Nepalese outlet about that first meeting. 

A member of the Asian American Advisory Board said there have been a handful of meetings since, but that the group’s work has been informal, with meeting notices sent out periodically by Greco.

“I think the committee is not yet officially established, and a full list of members has not been finalized,” said the member, who requested anonymity. 

An email sent to two attorneys for Liu in a matrimonial case she filed against Qin in Manhattan in 2023 wasn’t answered.

Chinese media reports say Qin was formerly the owner of one of Beijing’s most prestigious nightclubs, Tianshang Renjian (Heaven on Earth), and the former head of the film and entertainment firm SMI Culture.

He’s been incarcerated since his U.S. arrest on Oct. 2, 2023, and faces up to 27 years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 14, according to Peace’s office. The New York Times reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is recommending six months of jail time followed by deportation, which Qin agreed to under his plea not to contest.

A letter submitted in that case by Peace’s office recommending his continued detention upon his arrest includes images from Liu’s phone that “showed that on or about July 25, 2022, the defendant strangled” his former wife.

A footnote on the page says the facts concerning the strangulation and other alleged misconduct by Qin weren’t “presented” to the Nassau County District Court, but doesn’t explain why.

A spokesperson for Peace’s office declined to comment on the recommended penalty for Qin and referred questions about the alleged domestic violence to local authorities.

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