Chinese businessman Guo Wengui was arrested by the FBI in 2015, but only after handing over millions in political donations to Republicans. Reporting for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos argues that it leaves many questions about what exactly he was doing.
The piece categorizes him as a “smooth-talking middle-school dropout who served time in jail before somehow finding his angles in the real-estate boom of the nineteen-nineties and two-thousands.” The high-end property empire he built was not unlike Donald Trump, but he had to flee to the United States after his patron in the Chinese government had his downfall. He applied for asylum in the United States and then for membership at Mar-a-Lago, befriending key members of Trumpworld along the way.
Steve Bannon, for example, championed him as the “Donald Trump of Beijing” and the “George Washington of the new China.” Bannon wasn’t his only champion, however. He was also seen with Rudy Giuliani, Michael Flynn, Peter Navarro, and Jason Miller.
Bannon was arrested off the coast of Connecticut while on Guo’s mega-yacht.
An indictment unsealed on Wednesday revealed what Guo was doing in the United States — other than running from Chinese leaders.
Guo and co-defendant, Kin Ming Je, are accused “of orchestrating fraud involving more than a billion dollars, in which Guo amassed hundreds of thousands of followers online—many of them Chinese expatriates who believed in his promises to ‘take down the CCP’—and solicited their investments in a range of bogus ventures involving cryptocurrency, clubs, and the media.”
The documents say that in just six weeks in 2020, he scored $452 million in investments. Another project brought in $250 million for GClubs memberships, though the perks of being a club member were few.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that Guo was “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.” Ultimately, they allege that Guo defrauded over 1,000 people for more than $1 billion with his schemes.
Meanwhile, he was driving around in a $4.4 million sports car, watching a $62,000 television, walking on million-dollar rugs, and warming himself with a $53,000 “fireplace cradle holder.” He would also protect himself with a fleet of armed guards.
Daily Beast reporter Jose Pagliery told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday that Guo was prominent in the Chinese dissident community. Meanwhile, China isn’t playing around with the Chinese oligarchs, particularly those threatening Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“He made New York the home base for this big fight against the CCP. In doing so, he befriended all of these far right-wingers,” explained Pagliery. “And like you said, he became really close to Steve Bannon. Anyone who watches the War Room show that Steve Bannon has is familiar with Guo because he is sort of like an amateur artist who has a song calling out the CCP and how bad they are. Right? But what people don’t know about him is that he has been sued by everyone, left and right, in recent years.”
Guo has a massive mob of followers on social media, so one of his tactics was that if people began questioning why they weren’t being paid when they’d done something for him, he would sick his mob on them in Mandarin.
While raising money from other dissents, Guo told people he was penniless — while living three blocks from Trump in a vast condo overlooking Central Park.
In a world without armed guards and the court filings becoming public, Americans are about to learn even more about Guo.
On Wednesday, the New York Fire Department revealed that a fire broke out in Guo’s penthouse around noon, just hours after he was arrested. The fire is now under investigation, The New Yorker said, citing the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
See the comments from Pagliery below or at the link here.
Steve Bannon’s Chinese pal that was just arrested