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Guo Wengui arrested on suspicion of $1b in fraud

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-03-16 20:57

Guo Wengui, one of China's most wanted fugitives, was arrested in New York on Wednesday on charges of overseeing a $1 billion conspiracy, local media reported.

The 54-year-old was accused of multiple crimes before he fled China in 2014 and arrived in the United States the following year. He is also the subject of an Interpol Red Notice — an international arrest warrant.

The US Justice Department accused Guo along with a co-conspirator and another aide of various crimes, including wire and securities fraud. Guo was charged under the name Ho Wan Kwok.

US prosecutors said the indictment stemmed from a complex scheme in which Guo lied to hundreds of thousands of people around the world before misappropriating hundreds of millions of dollars.

At an arraignment in Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, Guo pleaded not guilty through his attorney. One of his lawyers did not immediately comment.

The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, US Attorney Damian Williams, said in a statement Guo was charged with "lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari and even two $36,000 mattresses, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht".

In New York he developed a close relationship with Steve Bannon, former US President Donald Trump's political strategist.

In 2020 Bannon was arrested for defrauding donors while he was aboard Guo's 45-meter yacht anchored off Connecticut.

According to media outlets, Guo was arrested in his luxury apartment near Central Park on Wednesday morning. Prosecutors asked Guo be held because of the risk he could flee and "the danger he poses to the community". They added Guo would face more than 100 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Guo's co-conspirator Je Kin Ming, 55, had been living in London and was indicted in the case but has not yet been arrested.

Yanping Wang, described by media as Guo's top aide, also faces charges including conspiracy, wire fraud and securities fraud.

Since September, the US government has seized approximately $634 million from 21 bank accounts associated with Guo.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also brought civil charges against Guo on Wednesday, accusing him of deceiving investors through dishonest online posts and videos, including some that claimed a crypto asset called "H-Coin" was backed by gold reserves.

The SEC said Guo's illegal schemes included raising $452 million through an unregistered stock offering that was supposed to go toward building a social media platform.

Agencies contributed to this story.

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