Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui—a close friend of right-wing media personality Stephen K. Bannon who has long been on the FBI’s radar—has been charged in a massive, $1 billion fraud conspiracy, the feds announced Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors unsealed a 12-count indictment against Guo, who is also known as “Miles Kwok,” “Brother Seven,” and “The Principal,” charging the mysterious moneyman with a raft of wire fraud, securities fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering counts.
Guo, 52, and co-conspirator Jin Ming Je, 56, misappropriated some $1 billion in “fraudulently obtained funds during the course of their conspiracy,” according to the Department of Justice. Guo allegedly used the money, for, among other things, a 50,000-square-foot New Jersey mansion, upkeep on a $37 million yacht, a $3.5 million Ferrari, Chinese and Persian rugs worth nearly $1 million, a $4.4 million Bugatti sports car, a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roadster, a Rolls-Royce Phantom EWB, a $62,000 television, a $53,000 fireplace log cradle holder, and two $36,000 mattresses that are apparently made of horse hair.
The details of Guo’s luxe life span five pages of the indictment against him. The government is looking to seize several bank accounts with a total value worth more than $600,000, as well as various other items Guo may have purchased with illegally obtained funds. The list includes a Louis XV-style ormolu-mounted mahogany commode furniture, a $180,000 pewter-and-bronze extension table, and a watch storage box for nearly $60,000. Then there’s the Porsche-designed Bösendorfer piano made in Austria that’s among the best-sounding instruments in the world—and a custom piano bench worth more than $140,000.
The feds are moving to size a one-of-a-kind, stainless steel table in the shape of a flower that the celebrated Italian designer Gabriella Crespi made for Milan’s Museo della Scienza e della Tecnica in 1982. The chic New York City furniture shop that sold it called it “the most important table Crespi designed” before she died in 2017.
The US government is also planning to take control of Guo’s sleek and modern yacht, the Lady May, whose onboard tracker currently indicates is moored at Steelpointe Harbor in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The FBI on Wednesday did not return The Daily Beast’s request for comment, nor did Guo’s various right-wing allies. Bannon didn’t mention Guo’s arrest during the opening segment of his show.
Guo and Je, a dual citizen of Hong Kong and the UK prosecutors who believe was the alleged scheme’s “financial architect and key money launderer,” lied to investors about where their funds were going, according to court documents.
The feds say Guo used two nonprofits he founded in 2018, the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society, “to amass followers who were aligned with his purported policy objectives in China and who were also inclined to believe [his] statements regarding investment and money-making opportunities.”
In one instance, Guo and Je bilked investors out of more than $260 million via a “purported stablecoin” called the Himalaya Dollar, and a trading coin called Himalaya Coin, or H Coin, according to prosecutors.
“If the H Coin is worthless, [the issuer of H coin] can sell all 20 percent of the gold, exchange it to you, and become your money,” Guo said in an online video posted in October 2021. “Or take all the value of 20 percent gold and ask everyone to unify it and make it yours.” He promised that if “anyone loses money, I can say that I will compensate 100%. I give you 100 percent. Whoever loses money, I will bear it.”
When the H Coin and H Dollar were issued, the pair two weeks later claimed a 26,900 percent increase in value. Je also publicly trumpeted the fact that someone bought a €3.5 million Ferrari using the Himalaya Exchange. However, the DOJ alleges that was a lie, too.
“In truth, a Himalaya Exchange employee sent the Ferrari broker an international bank wire to cover the cost of the Ferrari, while also processing a corresponding ‘transaction’ on the Himalaya Exchange to create the false appearance that the purchase had taken place… the DOJ said in a statement. “The buyer of the Ferrari was a close relative of [Guo].”
Guo’s billionaire lifestyle has previously come into question. According to documents unearthed in a New York case, Guo tested under oath in 2019 in a Virginia lawsuit that his net worth was “negative,” didn’t “have any more money,” has no “income from any sources,” and continued despite having “not a penny left.”
At the time, he was identified as a member of then-president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, which boasts that its membership provides the “highest privileges and an elite lifestyle reserved for a select few.” A sleazy cadre of people have used the club in recent years to pay their way into Trump’s orbit. The office of the former president on Wednesday did not clarify whether Guo is still a member there.
Guo is close with Bannon, whose conspiracy-spewing War Room podcast constantly attacks China’s communist government—and every episode features Guo’s anti-CCP rap song.
Guo’s proximity to Bannon has been problematic, particularly since the American right-wing has come under law enforcement scrutiny several times in recent years for running a scammy nonprofit to build a privately-funded US-Mexico border wall.
In fact, Bannon was relaxing and reading a book on Guo’s yacht just off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut, when FBI special agents arrested him in August 2020.
Guo has attracted quite a bit of media attention, because so much of his story is cloaked in mystery.
Guo fled China in 2014 to avoid corruption charges, and he used his freedom in the West to criticize what he deemed widespread government corruption.
His appearance in the United States as a freedom-loving Chinese billionaire in exile comes at a time when the authoritarian communist government back home is violently reeling from its capitalist expansion in the 1990s—actively hunting down successful oligarchs who are perceived as a threat to the party leadership.
In 2017, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that it was now using the global police network to track him down by having Interpol issue a “red notice” for him. At the time, the South China Morning Post detailed how Guo was suspected of bribing a disgraced counter-espionage government official with 60 million yuan, roughly equivalent to $8.7 million at the time.
However, much like his buddy Bannon, Guo has managed to anger allies who accuse him of scamming them too.
In 2020, he was sued in New York state court by a Chinese dissident who quit his Uber job to help Guo with his media ventures, only to allegedly get stiffed. Liehong Zhuang claimed that when he spoke up, his former boss started defaming him on his popular online show, and at one point used the right-wing social media network Getter to encourage a mob to attack him at home.
In a social media statement after the announcement, Guo’s son, Guo Mei, apparently posted on his father’s behalf: “Hello, comrades-in-arms… I received a call from my father half an hour ago,” Mei wrote on his father’s GETTR account, revealing that his father asked him to pass on a message: “I miss you very much, but please don’t wait at the gate of the court, it’s too cold, don’t freeze, go back. Remember, Everything can’t be stopped! What should I do? I can’t go back today, but please rest assured that I am fine and very safe!”
Mei thanked the public and concluded: “we will inform you of any news in time.”
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