Adams celebrated birthday at lux pad of Chinese billionaire implicated in straw donor scheme

Adams celebrated birthday at lux pad of Chinese billionaire implicated in straw donor scheme

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Mayor Adams celebrated his 60th birthday in 2020 at the luxe pad of a Chinese billionaire who recently pleaded guilty to orchestrating an illegal straw donor scheme, the Daily News has learned.

After businessman Hui Qin’s guilty plea last month, the mayor said he was one of “the thousands upon thousands of people” he interacted with while on the campaign trail. But at a party hosted by Qin and his former model wife Emma Duo Liu at their luxury penthouse atop The Plaza hotel, the then Brooklyn borough president’s birthday was celebrated as he was ramping up his 2021 mayoral run, according to people with knowledge of the event.

Qin pleaded guilty on March 18 to making $11,000 in illicit straw donations to political candidates. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, one of those campaigns was Adams’ 2021 mayoral run.

Brooklyn federal prosecutors said the campaigns targeted by Qin were unaware of his actions because he “concealed” his use of straw donors — a sentiment echoed by Adams’ campaign compliance attorney, Vito Pitta, in a statement to The News.

“When he was borough president, the mayor stopped by a birthday party for Ms. Liu. This was not a campaign event,” he said. “As the federal government made clear in its court filing, the Adams campaign had no knowledge of illegal activity by Mr. Qin — and any inference otherwise is reckless and false.”

A photo and video show there was also a cake at the event for Adams.

Hui Qin and his former model wife Emma Duo Liu (neither pictured here) hosted Mayor Eric Adams (center) and dozens of others at their luxury penthouse perched atop the Plaza hotel, according to sources. Adams' Director of Asian Affairs Winnie Greco is pictured at left. (Facebook)
Mayor Eric Adams (center) and dozens of others were hosted by Hui Qin and his former model wife Emma Duo Liu (neither pictured here) at their luxury penthouse perched atop the Plaza hotel, according to sources. Adams’ Director of Asian Affairs Winnie Greco is pictured at left. (Facebook)

The other celebrant, Qin’s now ex-wife Liu, has her own ties to the Adams administration. According to a story in the news outlet The City, Liu was tapped to serve on the mayor’s Asian Affairs Advisory Council, which was created in 2022 under the leadership of Winnie Greco.

Greco, a top City Hall aide whose homes were raided last month by the FBI, also attended the 2020 birthday bash. In one photo from that night, Adams can be seen with his arm wrapped around her.  The party, which was held during the COVID pandemic, appears to have largely taken place outdoors.

Mayor Eric Adams' Director of Asian Affairs, Winnie Greco, is pictured at a Lunar New Year Celebration at Gracie Mansion on Tuesday, February 8, 2022. (Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office)
Mayor Eric Adams’ Director of Asian Affairs, Winnie Greco, is pictured at a Lunar New Year Celebration at Gracie Mansion on Tuesday, February 8, 2022. (Michael Appleton / Mayoral Photography Office)

The FBI investigation into Greco, which is being overseen by prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, also led to a search warrant being executed at the New World Mall in Queens, where Greco attended at least two fundraisers for Adams in 2021 and where The City identified what appear to be illegal straw donations to Adams’ campaign.

Exactly what that federal probe is focused on isn’t entirely clear, though, and neither Greco nor Adams have been accused of any wrongdoing as part of it.  Greco is being probed by the city’s Department of Investigation as well. After Greco’s homes in the Bronx were raided by the feds, she went on medical leave.

Mayor Eric Adams and Director of Asian Affairs Winnie Greco are pictured at the 21st Autumn Moon Festival and 12th China Day Festival on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Violet Mendelsund / Mayoral Photography Office)
Mayor Eric Adams and Director of Asian Affairs Winnie Greco are pictured at the 21st Autumn Moon Festival and 12th China Day Festival on Sunday, October 1, 2023. (Violet Mendelsund / Mayoral Photography Office)

Qin and the allegations against him pose another potential headache for the mayor to contend with at a time when his campaign is dealing with the issue of straw donors on multiple fronts.

A separate federal probe, led by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, is looking at ties between Turkey and the Adams campaign, including the alleged use of a Brooklyn construction company to funnel illegal donations.

That investigation has led to the feds seizing Adams’ electronic devices and raids on the homes of his campaign fundraiser Brianna Suggs and City Hall staffer Rana Abbasova. Adams has not been accused of wrongdoing as part of that probe, either.

Rana Abbasova (NYC.gov)
Rana Abbasova (NYC.gov)

In a separate case brought by the Manhattan DA’s office, Dwayne Montgomery, a former NYPD inspector, pleaded guilty to helping orchestrating a scheme to funnel illegal donations into the mayor’s 2021 campaign coffers. Adams has not been accused of any wrongdoing or of knowing what Montgomery was doing.

The initial announcement of Qin’s plea did not name the candidates to which he’d funneled donations.

Addressing the issue during a City Hall press conference last month, Adams said that Qin was “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.”

Video obtained by The News from the 2020 Plaza party shows Adams chatting with other partygoers at Qin and Liu’s penthouse roof deck moments before he cuts into a birthday cake shaped like a Cohiba cigar box.

Adams birthday cake from the 2020 Plaza party. (Facebook)
Adams birthday cake from the 2020 Plaza party. (Facebook)

Partygoers can then be heard screaming, “Happy birthday, Emma” and “Happy birthday, Eric.”

“Look around the room folks. Look at the diversity in this room. We all have one thing in common. We love New York. They’re about to mess it up, but we’re going to show people what New Yorkers are made of,” Adams can be seen saying in the video. “Happy birthday. Let’s make sure we take back our city.”

Qin, a Chinese businessman who was listed in Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, and Liu are now divorced, but records show they still co-own two penthouse apartments at The Plaza.

Hui Qin, the owner of SMI Holdings Group Ltd., an investment holding company that operates movie theaters in China, attends the opening ceremony of the Stellar International Complex on December 18, 2004 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Xiong Tao/VCG via Getty Images)
Hui Qin, the owner of SMI Holdings Group Ltd., an investment holding company that operates movie theaters in China, attends the opening ceremony of the Stellar International Complex on December 18, 2004 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Xiong Tao/VCG via Getty Images)

Their breakup has not been amicable. According to documents released by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, Qin allegedly strangled Liu during an argument in July 2022 and was arrested in September 2023 after he used an ax to break down her closet door at their Long Island residence. Qin was charged with criminal mischief and issued an anti-harassment order by a Nassau County district court judge as a result. The next court appearance in that case is listed in court records as April 26.

Aside from the straw donor scheme, Qin, a Chinese citizen who has used several aliases, also admitted to fraudulently obtaining a Florida driver’s license and lying on an immigration application seeking lawful permanent resident status in the U.S., records released by federal prosecutors show.

Lawyers for Qin and Liu did not respond to multiple calls.

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