The indictment against Guo and alleged co-conspirator Kin Ming Je includes charges of wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. As of Wednesday morning, Je had not been arrested.
In August 2020, federal authorities arrested Bannon while he was off the coast of Connecticut on a yacht belonging to Guo. Prosecutors alleged that Bannon fleeced donors of a nonprofit group that claimed it was building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon pleaded not guilty and was later pardoned by President Donald Trump.
Chinese businessman with links to Steve Bannon is driving force for a sprawling disinformation network, researchers say
Bannon did not respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Guo did not respond to a request for comment.
The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Guo on Wednesday in a parallel action, alleging Guo and Je defrauded investors.
The criminal indictment, filed in the Southern District of New York, alleges that Guo and a co-conspirator led a “complex” conspiracy that fraudulently raised funds from thousands of online follows and investors through various endeavors, including GTV, a sprawling network of media websites and social media accounts that have been found to spread disinformation about coronavirus remedies, the 2020 election and baseless QAnon conspiracy theories.
Prosecutors allege that Guo solicited funds through an illegal stock offering that raised $452 million from more than 5,500 investors from late April to early June 2020. Guo and Je directed $100 million of that money to a “high-risk hedge fund” that benefited GTV’s parent company and its owner, one of Guo’s close relatives, according to prosecutors.
Guo announced in 2020 that Bannon had been named chairman of GTV. He was removed from the position after his arrest, Guo told The Washington Post later that year. At the time, Guo said Bannon did not play a part in raising money for the company.
Bannon had extensive ties to Guo, The Post has reported, developed over their apparent shared ideology on politics in China. The Post reported in 2020 that there were signs the federal government was investigating Guo’s financial activities in the country.
Guo, an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, fled China after he was accused of bribery and other crimes there.
“Miles Guo has been the toughest Chinese opponent the CCP has ever encountered,” Bannon said in a statement to The Post in 2020.
The pair also said in the past that they would launch charities together, and Guo previously gave Bannon a consulting contract with one of his companies. Guo has been known for his lavish lifestyle in China and later in New York, building a skyscraper in Beijing and living in a $67 million penthouse near New York’s Central Park. He was reportedly a member of Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida.
In addition to the charges related to GTV, prosecutors allege that Guo took in $150 million through a loan program called the “Himalaya Farm Alliance,” using some of the money to maintain a 145-foot yacht owned by one of Guo’s relatives.
Guo and his co-conspirators also raised some $250 million from an online membership club called “G|CLUBS,” prosecutors say, and then used a “substantial portion” of that money on a 50,000-square-foot New Jersey mansion and other luxury items, including a $4.4 million Bugatti sports car. Guo and Je also fraudulently raised some $262 million through what they described as a cryptocurrency “ecosystem,” according to prosecutors.
In recent months, authorities have seized some $634 million in “fraud proceeds” from entities associated with Guo and Je, prosecutors said.
Guo had been a real estate developer in China, at one point ranking as the country’s 73rd-richest person. He fled the country after one of his close allies, a senior intelligence official named Ma Jian, was arrested in a 2014 anti-corruption drive and, in a video released by the government, detailed taking bribes from Guo.
In 2017, Guo resurfaced in New York and used a YouTube channel to make sensational allegations of money, sex, and violence among the Chinese Communist Party elite. The Post reported that the Chinese government lobbied Trump administration officials to extradite him back to China.
Hours after Guo’s arrest Wednesday morning, a two-alarm fire broke out on the 18th floor of the Sherry-Netherland hotel, a building where he was arrested Wednesday morning and where local news outlets reported he was living. It’s unclear whether the blaze and Guo’s arrest were related, and a Justice Department spokesman said an “investigation is being conducted to determine the cause of the fire.”