Scene of the fire in Porto's Rua Alexandre Braga

Chinese businessman who ‘ordered killer arson attack’ in Porto jailed for 25 years

The Chinese businessman who ordered ‘death by arson’ in order to rid his property of tenants has been jailed for 25 years – the maximum prison term Portugal can give.

Chenglong Li, a ‘Golden Visa’ resident here, has always denied the crimes which Porto judges attributed to him. 

He told the central criminal court during the trial in February that “what happened in the building was a tragedy”.

But the bench led by Judge Maria da Conceição Nogueira found in favour of the Public Ministry which alleged 25-year-old Li to be the mastermind of the attack that was specifically designed to kill the occupants as they slept.

Explain reports, Li ordered an earlier arson attack on the building, but it ‘hadn’t worked’.

The second, in March 2019, was one of desperation: Li stood to lose “at least €320,000” if he couldn’t free the building of tenants by May 31 2019, says SIC television news. If he could, he would have profited by €555,000.

But the plan backfired almost immediately. People witnessing the fire that killed 55-year-old António Gonçalves told police it had been started deliberately following months of threats heaped on the tenants: a family of four, including an octogenarian (since deceased) and her adult children (click here).

Indeed, the whole incident exposed an evil underbelly of criminal property speculation in Porto (click here) which SIC has now reported on following the results of Li’s trial (click here).

Three other Portuguese co-defendants were found ‘not guilty’ however of the charges against them, as the judges said the men’s involvement in the crimes could not be proved.

It is unclear whether the Public Ministry will appeal this aspect of today’s judgement.

Lusa reports that the judges’ ruling will now be translated into English and Mandarin, on the request of Li and his wife.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com