Chinese property magnate based in New York, Guo Wengui, has been charged by US authorities for allegedly masterminding a billion-dollar fraud. Guo Wengui and his business associate, Kin Ming Je, face accusations of wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering.

Guo, a critic of the Chinese government, is also known for his association with former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. A fire broke out in Guo’s Manhattan penthouse apartment shortly after his arrest, though no injuries were reported.

Allegations Against Guo Wengui and Kin Ming Je

According to the indictment, Guo and Je raised $1 billion from thousands of online followers who believed they were supporting media businesses and an exclusive membership club. The duo allegedly utilized a cryptocurrency called Himalaya Coin to defraud millions from investors.

Guo’s opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and his connections with high-profile, right-wing US politicians and activists gained him a large following online. Prosecutors claim that Guo exploited his online popularity to raise funds for his ventures, which were instead funneled into personal accounts linked to him and Je.

Luxury purchases made with the funds include a 50,000 sq ft mansion in New Jersey, high-end sports cars, and nearly $1m worth of Chinese and Persian rugs. US government seized around $634m from 21 bank accounts starting September last year.

Who is Guo Wengui?

A former real-estate developer, Guo reportedly became one of China’s wealthiest men before leaving the country in 2014. He sought political asylum in the US in 2017, claiming persecution by Communist Party authorities.

Guo has been both the target of social media campaigns supporting the Chinese government and accused of spreading false rumors on various subjects. His vocal opposition to China’s rulers led to multiple ventures with Bannon, including the 2020 New Federal State of China campaign aimed at overthrowing the Chinese Communist Party.

In an unrelated case, Bannon was arrested on Guo’s yacht in Connecticut and charged with fraud. Last year, Guo’s GTV Media Group settled a lawsuit with the US Securities and Exchange Commission for $539m without admitting any wrongdoing.

Kin Ming Je, also known as William Je, is a dual citizen of Britain and Hong Kong and is still at large. He is listed as the director of two financial services companies based in London: ACA Capital and Hamilton Investment Management. Among the funds seized by US authorities were bank accounts linked to Hamilton and Guo-funded alt-tech social media platform Gettr.

A foundation linked to Guo labeled the allegations against him “fabricated and unwarranted” and accused the US justice system of being controlled by the Chinese Communist Party without providing any evidence.

Guo Wengui’s Foundations and Ties to Stephen Bannon

Guo Wengui is known to have established two non-profit organizations that helped build his following among opponents of the Chinese Communist Party. His collaboration with Bannon has been widely publicized, with the two frequently appearing together in online videos.

Guo’s ventures with Bannon have faced legal challenges, as demonstrated by the $539 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission involving GTV Media Group, a company tied to Guo. Although Bannon was not named in the indictment against Guo and Je, his previous arrest and ongoing legal issues highlight the controversies surrounding their partnership.

Ongoing Investigation and Legal Proceedings

Guo Wengui pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court and was ordered to be detained without bail. The cause of the fire at his Manhattan penthouse apartment remains under investigation. As for Kin Ming Je, authorities are still searching for him, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

In response to the charges against Guo, one of his foundations has released a statement denying any wrongdoing, insisting that the allegations are fabricated and unwarranted. The statement further accuses the US justice system of being under the control of the Chinese Communist Party without providing any evidence to support the claim.

The case against Guo Wengui and Kin Ming Je highlights the complexities of international financial fraud and the challenges faced by authorities in pursuing suspects across borders. The ongoing legal proceedings will likely continue to reveal new details about the extent of the alleged fraud and the potential consequences for all parties involved.