On Wednesday in New York, a business magnate who had long been sought after by the Chinese government and was well known for maintaining connections to members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, was detained on suspicion of orchestrating a $1 billion fraud ring.
Guo Wengui, 54, and his financier, Kin Ming Je, were accused of several offenses, including wire, securities, and bank fraud, in a federal court in Manhattan.
Using the name Ho Wan Kwok, Guo was indicted in court documents.
According to U.S. authorities, the indictment resulted from a complicated plan in which Guo deceived hundreds of thousands of online followers both in the United States and abroad before stealing hundreds of millions of dollars.
No arrest has been made for 55-year-old Kin Ming Je. In court on Wednesday, Guo was scheduled to show up. His lawyer was silent at first.
According to a statement from Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, Guo is accused of “lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself and his close relatives a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and even two $36,000 mattresses, as well as financing a $37 million luxury yacht.”
Guo used to be considered one of China’s wealthiest individuals.
In 2014, he departed the country when President Xi Jinping launched a campaign against corruption that resulted in the arrest of Guo’s associates, including a senior intelligence official. Guo has been charged with crimes including rape, kidnapping, bribery, and more by Chinese authorities.
Since then, that country’s administration has highly sought after it, which looks to the US for security.
He forged a close bond with Steve Bannon, the former political advisor to President Donald Trump, while hiding out in New York as a fugitive and became a vocal critic of the country’s Communist Party.
In 2020, Guo and Bannon announced the launch of a joint initiative they claimed was intended to topple the Chinese government.
Guo has long maintained that the accusations against him in China are untrue and were made to punish him for criticizing top Communist Party officials and exposing corruption there in public.
His case was the focus of an ongoing discussion on whether China had improperly used Interpol and other international law enforcement cooperation programs to pursue his capture.
He requested political asylum in the U.S., claiming he was afraid of being arrested if he were to be compelled to leave and go to a country with less ability to resist Chinese demands.
On federal charges, Bannon was once taken into custody on Guo’s 150-foot (45-meter) boat. Trump pardoned Bannon shortly before he left office, dissolving the case against him.
U.S. prosecutors accuse Guo of deceiving his victims by promising them astronomical returns on their investments or contributions to his media company, GTV Media Group Inc., his purported Himalaya Farm Alliance, G’CLUBS, and other ventures.
According to Williams, most of Guo’s alleged fraud earnings total $634 million, which the U.S. government seized from 21 bank accounts between September 2022 and this month.
He claimed that law authorities also seized property on Wednesday, including a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster that had been bought using the allegedly fraudulent funds.
Moreover, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil accusations against Guo on Wednesday, alleging that Guo had been a leader in several frauds since April 2020.
According to the SEC, Guo preyed on retail investors through online and social media posts and videos, misleading them with false information such as the assertion that gold reserves backed the “H-Coin” cryptocurrency asset security.
To “build the most well-liked and secure social media and transaction platform independent of the Chinese government’s censorship and monitoring, allowing the people of China and the world to realize the freedom of speech and trade,” Guo and Je allegedly raised about $452 million through an unregistered offering of GTV common stock from April 2020 to June 2020, according to the SEC.