FBI Arrests Bannon Buddy Guo Wengui Over Alleged $1 Billion Fraud Scheme
The FBI has arrested exiled Chinese billionaire — and close Steve Bannon associate — Guo Wengui on federal charges that he masterminded a $1 billion fraud scheme, ABC News and other outlets report.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Guo and business associate Kin Ming Je on Wednesday, March 15, accusing them of using social media and other online posts and videos to target retail investors with fraudulent offers. According to the SEC, Guo used the ill-gotten funds to buy himself, and close friends, luxury items including a $3.5 million Ferrari and two $36,000 mattresses.
Guo also allegedly used the money to buy a 50,000 square foot mansion and finance a $37 million yacht. (As it happens, Bannon was arrested in his own fraud case — for which he was later pardoned by Donald Trump — on a yacht belonging to Guo in August 2020.)
According to the SEC complaint, Guo started to conduct “fraudulent securities offering” around April 2020, raising at “at least hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in the United States and around the world.” The scheme allegedly involved pitching investors three unregistered securities as a way of buying shares of GTV Media Group, the company Guo and Bannon founded in 2020. (Bannon hasn’t been charged in connection to this alleged scheme.) There was allegedly a fourth pitch as well — this one involving a crypto asset called “H-Coin” that Guo said was backed by gold reserves (it wasn’t, per the charges).
Guo, who made his money in real estate development and investments, has long been a staunch critic of China’s ruling regime — and has been living in exile from his home country since 2014. (He’s considered a fugitive by the Chinese government, and oddly enough, the surreal saga of the Fugees’ Pras Michel involved an alleged attempt to lobby the Trump administration to extradite Guo back to China.) Guo and Bannon, a longtime China hardliner himself, first linked up around 2017, not long after Bannon’s short tenure as a top White House advisor to Donald Trump ended, and his longtime backers, the Mercer family, had cut ties with him.
Guo’s lawyer declined a New York Times request for immediate comment.
Together, Bannon and Guo founded an anti-Chinese Communist Party group, the New Federal State of China. Their biggest venture, GTV, launched in April 2020. The media network hosted a plethora of far-right misinformation on everything from Covid-19 and vaccines to doctored reports about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
As The New Yorker reported last year, Guo started making wild promises to fans, like that GTV would be a good investment if the Chinese currency collapsed, and that donations to him would help people seeking for political asylum (“[Y]our application for asylum will 100 percent get approved,” he said in a 2020 video).
Guo’s arrest Wednesday comes about a year after he filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy; he previously had a net worth estimated around $1.1 billion in 2015 (per Forbes). As for Bannon, he was recently seen trying to keep his pro-MAGA crypto coin $FJB afloat after its value fell 95 percent over the past year.