Chinese billionaire and associate of Steve Bannon arrested in $1 billion fraud conspiracy, officials say


Exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, an associate of former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon, was arrested by federal authorities in New York Wednesday morning, accused of orchestrating a $1 billion fraud scheme, prosecutors announced. 

Guo, charged in court papers as Ho Wan Kwok and who also goes by Miles Guo and Miles Kwok, was charged with 12 counts including wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud and money laundering in an indictment unsealed Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a news release.

The same day the news of his arrest came to light, Guo’s Manhattan apartment in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue was found on fire, a source familiar with the matter said. An FBI spokesperson said agents were executing law enforcement activity at Guo’s apartment when the blaze broke out, after he was already in custody.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement that Guo had led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion. 

Guo, alongside his alleged co-conspirator Kin Ming Je, also known as William Je, are accused of taking advantage of Guo’s online presence to solicit investments into various companies and programs by “promising outsized financial returns and other benefits,” prosecutors said. They then misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulently obtained funds, which Guo allegedly used on a lavish lifestyle. 

“Kwok is charged with 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, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht,” Williams said. 

Kin Ming Je, Guo’s financier, was also charged in the indictment, hit with a further charge of obstruction of justice and has not been arrested yet.

Attorney information for Guo and Kin was not immediately available Wednesday. Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. government has seized $634 million in alleged fraud proceeds from 21 different bank accounts as well as assets purchased with proceeds of the alleged fraud including a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roads, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also separately filed a parallel civil complaint against the two men on Wednesday, accusing the pair of involvement in unregistered and fraudulent financial offerings. 

Guo is a controversial figure. He is an exiled Chinese businessman who has lived in the U.S. since about 2015 and has amassed a “substantial online following,” prosecutors said. Guo is also a business associate of Steve Bannon, who was arrested on Guo’s yacht in a fraud case in August 2020. 

The fraud scheme took place from 2018 through March 2023, with Guo at the at the helm, prosecutors said.

In 2018 he founded two “purported nonprofit organizations”: the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society. He then allegedly used those organizations to gain followers “who were aligned with his purported policy objectives in China,” prosecutors said. Those followers were “inclined to believe Guo’s statements about investment and money-making opportunities,” officials said.

Bannon at one point was on the board of directors of the Rule of Law Society, CNBC reported.

One instance of fraud involved Guo posting a video on social media in April 2020 announcing the unregistered offering of common stock in media company GTV Media Group, Inc. via a private placement and he directed people to contact him.

Between then and June 2020, $452 million worth of GTV common stock was sold to more than 5,500 investors, with investors believing their money would be invested into GTV to develop and grow the business, prosecutors alleged. But days after the GTV Private Placement closed, Guo and his co-conspirator allegedly directed $100 million of funds raised from that to be invested in a high-risk hedge fund for the benefit of GTV’s parent company —whose owner was a close family relative of Guo’s. 

In another case, both Guo and Kin allegedly lured Guo’s followers to transfer additional funds to an online membership club called G|CLUBS, fraudulently obtaining more than $250 million in victim funds from October 2020 through March 2023. G|Clubs claimed on its website to be “an exclusive, high-end membership program offering a full spectrum of services” and a “gateway to carefully curated world-class products, services and experiences.”

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