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Prosecutor: Exiled Chinese businessman stole millions from followers

REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI/FILE PHOTO
                                Guo Wengui (also known as Miles Kwok) holds a news conference with Steve Bannon in New York, New York, in November 2018. The exiled Chinese businessman spent hundreds of millions of dollars he raised from online followers for sham investments on luxury goods including a red Lamborghini and a yacht, a U.S. prosecutor said today.
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REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI/FILE PHOTO

Guo Wengui (also known as Miles Kwok) holds a news conference with Steve Bannon in New York, New York, in November 2018. The exiled Chinese businessman spent hundreds of millions of dollars he raised from online followers for sham investments on luxury goods including a red Lamborghini and a yacht, a U.S. prosecutor said today.

NEW YORK >> An exiled Chinese businessman spent hundreds of millions of dollars he raised from online followers for sham investments on luxury goods including a red Lamborghini and a yacht, a U.S. prosecutor said today. In his closing argument at Guo Wengui’s trial on racketeering and fraud charges, prosecutor Ryan Finkel said Guo repeatedly guaranteed followers in social media broadcasts that they would not lose money if they invested in a series of schemes he carried out from 2018 to 2023.

Guo has pleaded not guilty to each of the 12 counts he faces. His lawyers are expected to give their closing argument later. Finkel said Guo ultimately raised more than $1 billion through a series of bogus investment and cryptocurrency schemes from followers, some of which Guo claimed would help people oppressed by China’s communist government. Earlier in the trial in federal court in Manhattan, jurors held the keys to the red Lamborghini that Finkel said U.S. authorities found in the garage of Guo’s Connecticut estate. Finkel showed jurors videos of Guo wearing sunglasses and standing on the deck of a yacht pitching investments. A July 2022 video in which Guo said, “If you lose a penny, I will take responsibility for it,” was filmed five months after Guo filed for bankruptcy, the prosecutor said. “He knew he was bankrupt,” Finkel said. Guo, who has been jailed since his March 2023 arrest, wore a light gray suit and smiled occasionally during Finkel’s argument.

Defense lawyers have previously said Guo’s businesses were legitimate and that he was trying to build a movement against China’s government.

Finkel acknowledged that Guo, a former real estate developer who left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown, was targeted by Chinese authorities. But he said that had nothing to do with the conduct at issue in this case. “Was Miles Guo targeted by the CCP? Yes,” Finkel said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. “Does that excuse what he did? No.”

Prosecutors say Guo used multiple aliases, including Miles Guo and Miles Kwok.

Finkel also showed jurors a video of former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon promoting one of Guo’s ventures at a press conference in 2018.

Guo paid Bannon $1 million as part of a consulting contract designed to lend legitimacy to his anti-Chinese Communist Party movement, Finkel said.

Bannon is not accused of wrongdoing in the case. But it was on Guo’s $37 million yacht, the Lady May, where Bannon was arrested in 2020 in a separate fraud case. Bannon was pardoned in the waning days of Trump’s presidency and had pleaded not guilty.

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