Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese businessman with links to former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, was accused by the U.S. authorities on Wednesday of directing a complicated plot to defraud his internet followers of over $1 billion.
Prosecutors alleged Guo and his longtime financial advisor Kin Ming Je defrauded thousands of followers by promising “outsized” investment returns while spending most of their money on luxurious lives for themselves and their families.
Authorities say Guo bought a $37 million boat, a 50,000-square-foot house in northern New Jersey, a $3.5 million Ferrari for his son, a $62,000 TV, and two $36,000 beds.
“He lined his pockets with the money he took,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, charging Guo with 11 felony charges.
Guo’s lawyer did not reply to inquiries.
Bannon, detained on Guo’s boat Lady May in August 2020 for fraud, had done business with Guo.
Trump pardoned Bannon in his last hours. Guo’s lawsuit does not implicate Bannon.
The U.S. Department of Justice confiscated $634 million in suspected fraud profits from 21 bank accounts, including six at Silvergate Bank.
It also seized a Lamborghini Aventador bought with Guo’s illicit earnings.
Guo, 52, has gone by Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Kwok.
He was detained Wednesday morning for securities fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering, possibly resulting in decades in jail.
Guo also faces SEC civil charges.
London resident William Ji faces 11 criminal charges and an obstruction accusation. He escaped.
Guo is a vocal Communist Party critic.
He fled the nation in 2014 following President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive, suspected of bribery and money laundering. Guo denies guilt.
Guo’s residence on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the Sherry-Netherland hotel, caught fire on the 18th floor after his detention.
According to an NYC fire department official, the fire was extinguished without injury. He said officials are investigating but wouldn’t say if the fire was related to Guo’s detention.
On Wednesday, prosecutors revealed a network of offers that targeted investors who supported Guo’s Chinese policy goals and trusted the self-proclaimed billionaire when investing.
Gurbir Grewal, SEC enforcement officer, stated that Guo was a serial scammer.
Guo allegedly raised $262 million through the Himalaya Exchange, a claimed cryptocurrency “environment,” to launch a $27 billion-valued H Coin known as Himalaya Coin or HCN.
The indictment references an October 2021 video in which Guo reportedly asserted that 20% of H Coin’s value was backed by gold and would fully refund investors who lost money.
“Whoever loses money, I will endure it,” Guo said.
Prosecutors claimed the scam happened from 2018 through this month. The government wants to take Lady May.
When a New York judge ordered him to pay $134 million for removing the Lady May beyond a lender’s grasp, Guo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Connecticut in February 2022.