Chinese billionaire and political activist Guo Wengui, also known as Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Guo, has been arrested in New York and charged with defrauding investors out of $1bn. The arrest was made on Wednesday after an alleged conspiracy involving the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars obtained from Guo’s thousands of followers online. 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’s business partner, Kin Ming 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.
Guo is a real estate tycoon who was born in Shandong and 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 Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for exposing corruption among the upper echelons of the Chinese leadership. Guo is known for his strident criticism of the CCP and his close association with prominent conservative figures, including former Trump adviser Steve Bannon.
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.
China confirmed that it requested Interpol to issue a notice for Guo’s arrest in April 2017 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.
Guo and his business partner face 11 charges, including wire fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. They are 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 also alleged to have laundered hundreds of millions of stolen funds to conceal the conspiracy’s illegal activities and continue the fraud.
The charges carry a punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Damian Williams, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that his office and law enforcement partners will continue to do all that they can to protect the community from the devastating consequences of pernicious fraud schemes.