SINGAPORE: English football club Arsenal have found themselves unwitting victims of a possible fraud after being duped into signing deals with a woman posing as an employee of Chinese electric carmaker BYD.
The deals are now being investigated for suspected fraud, while the woman has been arrested for faking a connection with BYD and signing deals with a forged company seal.
Arsenal issued a statement on Jul 13 saying the Chinese company had informed the club that it believes the Gunners have become the victim of a fraud in relation to various advertising agreements. These include a partnership deal announced on Apr 23 that saw the carmaker become the club’s official car and bus partner.
“We are investigating the situation and discussing it with senior level BYD representatives who were involved in the launch of the partnership,” the statement said, adding that the club will not make further comments on the matter.
BYD, the company backed by Warren Buffett, issued a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday (Jul 16) stating that the suspect Li Juan, also known as Liki Li, is not an employee of BYD.
The carmaker insisted that it has never authorised her to conduct business in its name or sign any contract on its behalf.
The company and its subsidiary, Shanghai BYD Electric Vehicle, did not lend their seals to Li and their seals are not lost, it added.
“Therefore, the seal stamped on the contract signed by Li Juan in the name of BYD and Shanghai BYD Electric Vehicle was forged,” it said in the HKEX statement, signed off by chairman Wang Chuan-fu.
According to a Jul 15 report by Chinese news site The Paper, Li has been signing advertising and marketing deals in BYD's name from Shanghai to London for the past three years.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misreported the name of the suspect. We apologise for the error.