The Fashion Mall hasn’t much lived up to its name. Already faltering a decade ago, the South Florida shopping mall has since been hammered by a hurricane, vacated by its tenants and put into bankruptcy, all the time, it turns out, being partially owned by a fugitive from China.
Busted plans to redevelop the dilapidated mall have featured in a lawsuit between its Chinese investors. Du Zhenzeng, a steel baron from northern China, sued his naturalized American business partner, Wei Chen, for using their business “as his personal piggy-bank” to fund a flashy lifestyle that includes a Bentley and yacht trips, according to testimony in that lawsuit.
In a court hearing in October in Fort Lauderdale, Mr. Du’s lawyers said he invested nearly $160 million in the mall development project. Mr. Chen said the funds Mr. Du promised never materialized.
Then, last month, new troubles arose. Back in China, Mr. Chen is known as He Yejun, according to court and immigration records, and that name appeared on an Interpol list Released by Chinese investigators of 100 wanted fugitives, mostly officials and executives, who had fled abroad. Mr. He is accused by prosecutors of misappropriating 1 million yuan, then about $120,000, from the brewery that he ran before fleeing to the U.S. in 1999, according to the Interpol notice.
In the midst of a full-throttle campaign against corruption at home, China’s government is trying to show transgressors there is no refuge abroad. Some on the wanted list have lived many years overseas, with the U.S. a favored destination, creating new lives and hiding their old ones.