A Chinese billionaire whose name has been given as Guo Wengui, known for his opposition to Beijing and ties to the administration of former US President Donald Trump, has been charged in the United States with defrauding investors out of $1bn.
In a statement on Thursday, the US Department of Justice said Guo, also known as Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Guo, was arrested in New York on Wednesday over an alleged conspiracy involving the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from his thousands of followers online.
Guo is accused of pocketing money raised from investors who were promised outsized returns for backing a number of his business ventures, including the media company GTV Media Group, an exclusive membership club known as G|CLUBS, and a cryptocurrency called Himalaya Coin.
Guo is accused of using some of the funds to make luxury purchases, including a 50,000-square property in New Jersey, a $37m yacht, and a $3.5m Ferrari for his son.
Guo is also alleged to have laundered hundreds of millions of stolen funds to conceal the conspiracy’s illegal activities and continue the fraud.
Read Also: Naira, Fuel Crises Caused By ‘Saboteurs’ – Gbajabiamila
Guo and his business partner Kin Ming Je, with whom Guo is accused of perpetrating the fraud, face 11 charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering.
Je, who authorities say is currently at large, also faces an additional count of obstruction of justice.
The most serious of the charges carries a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Guo’s lawyer declined to comment.
“My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to do all that we can to protect the community from the devastating consequences of pernicious fraud schemes,” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said.
Guo, a real estate tycoon who was born in Shandong, is known for his strident criticism of the Chinese Community Party (CCP) and his close association with prominent conservative figures, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
Africa Today News, New York recalls that in 2020, Guo and Bannon launched the New Federal State of China lobby group aimed at bringing down the CCP. Bannon was on Guo’s yacht off the New York coast when the former Trump adviser was arrested that year on unrelated fraud charges. Bannon, who is due to stand trial later this year, has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Guo left China in 2014 amid a high-profile crackdown on corruption led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In 2017, Guo sought asylum in the US after claiming he was being persecuted by the CCP for exposing corruption among the upper echelons of the Chinese leadership.
China confirmed that it requested Interpol to issue a notice for Guo’s arrest in April of that year, after the businessman made a series of unproven claims about Chinese officials bearing illegitimate children as well as owning property and bank accounts overseas.
The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported at the time that Guo was wanted on suspicion of bribing former spy chief Ma Jian, who was ensnared in Xi’s anti-corruption drive.