Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who is also an associate of Steve Bannon, has been arrested in connection with a $1 billion fraud conspiracy, according to officials. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged Wengui, also known as Miles Kwok, with using false and misleading statements to deceive lenders into providing financing for his companies. He and his co-conspirators allegedly provided inaccurate financial information, forged documents, and lied about their business operations. The charges were announced by acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss and FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr. in a press conference on Thursday.
Wengui, who is believed to be in the United States on a temporary visa, has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government and claims to be a whistleblower exposing corruption within its ruling elite. He has also been linked to Bannon, a former advisor to President Trump and an architect of his 2016 presidential campaign. Bannon was arrested earlier this year on charges of fraud related to a crowdfunding campaign to build a border wall.
The DOJ’s press release states that Wengui and his co-conspirators “made false and misleading statements about the financial condition of companies they controlled” in order to obtain financing. They then allegedly misused the funds, including by transferring millions of dollars to overseas accounts. The statement also alleges that Wengui himself received millions of dollars from the scheme and used the money to fund a “lavish lifestyle.”
Wengui is facing charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. If convicted, he could face up to 45 years in prison. His arrest is part of a larger effort by U.S. law enforcement to crack down on economic espionage and other types of fraud committed by Chinese nationals.