Chinese car brand BYD's suspected fraud case embroils Arsenal and ad agencies

Chinese electric car brand BYD has been embroiled in a fraudulent misrepresentation case after an alleged con artist posed as an employee of the company.

The Chinese car brand, which is backed by Warren Buffett, has asked police to investigate a woman, Li Juan or Liki Li, who BYD claims signed unauthorised contracts with advertising agencies and brand partners.

The woman is accused of conducting deals in BYD’s name for three years using a rented office in Shanghai, which she claimed was a branch of the Shenzhen-based company.

The incident includes British football club Arsenal, which signed a partnership deal with the car marker in April, however, it is thought the deal may have been affected by fraud.

It also includes more than 30 advertising agencies that have accused BYD of absolving responsibility for more than RMB1.1bn of advertising production fees, according to Campaign.

In a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, BYD denied Li Juan was ever employed by the company or its subsidiary and claimed official company seals used by the accused to sign contracts were forged.

A BYD statement said: “We have found some illegal entities and/or individuals carrying out advertising business by forging our company’s seal and/or conducting it on behalf of our company (“Fraud Issues”). The criminal suspect Li Juan (English name: Liki Li) has been detained by the Chinese Public Security Authority after our reporting.

“Hereby we reiterate that BYD was never involved in and is not responsible for any fraud issues. Please make sure to report to the authority responsible whenever you find yourself a victim."

A statement from Arsenal said: “BYD has informed Arsenal that they believe they have been the victim of a fraud in relation to various advertising agreements.

“This includes our partnership with BYD, which was formally launched by both parties at an event at the club’s Emirates Stadium on 8 May. 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.”