On Wednesday, March 15, 2023, a Chinese businessman wanted in his country and closely linked to Steve Bannon, who worked as a political advisor to former US President Donald Trump, was arrested in New York and charged with seizing about a billion dollars from supporters of his anti-Beijing activities.
The US Department of Justice also charged Guo Wengui and his British partner, who is still at large, Ji Qin Ming, with stealing money from participants in an investment scheme so that they could purchase luxuries including a yacht, a luxury mansion and luxury cars.
A judicial official said late Wednesday that Guo had pleaded not guilty and was arrested after a preliminary hearing.
Hours after he was arrested at six in the morning in his apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan, a fire broke out in the building he lived in, which raised doubts about the possibility of the two incidents being linked.
The arrest came nine years after the escape of this billionaire, who was working in the field of real estate in China, where he faces charges of fraud and corruption, and in the United States he turned into an opponent and critic of corruption within the Chinese government.
The US Department of Justice said Guo took advantage of his reputation as an opponent of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government while in New York to mobilize a large number of supporters online.
These supporters were encouraged to donate to or invest in non-profit foundations and companies controlled by Guillou, including the GTV Media Group, of which Bannon was a director.
His activity included other avenues to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, including a luxury club and cryptocurrency platform Himalaya Farm Alliance.
The Justice Department said Guo and Ji diverted the money for their own use.
Since 2021, the US authorities have confiscated about $634 million of the funds collected by Guo and Ji, and on Wednesday they were charged with multiple charges, most notably fraud and money laundering.
Guo arrived in the United States in 2015 after fleeing a crackdown in China against wealthy and corrupt officials, and was accused of paying bribes to two powerful intelligence and security officials.
But he claimed he was the victim of a business dispute with a former senior Communist Party official.
In 2017, at Beijing’s request, Interpol issued a (non-binding) Red Notice requesting his arrest and extradition.
China has sent security officials to New York to pressure him to return, and has reached out to sympathetic American businessmen with ties to Trump to persuade him to deport Guo.
But Washington did not take any action against him under Trump, and in late 2017 Bannon began working with the Chinese businessman after he left his job in the White House.
It was reported that Bannon received $1 million while working as an advisor to Guo.