Exiled Chinese businessman’s $1 billion fraud trial to begin in US on Friday

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By Jody Godoy

(Reuters) – Exiled Chinese businessman Miles Guo’s fraud trial is expected to kick off on Friday in Manhattan with an opening statement from prosecutors, who say he conned investors and customers out of more than $1 billion through a fraudulent business empire.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres will first finish picking a jury to hear federal prosecutors’ case alleging Guo used his prolific online presence and hundreds of thousands of followers to bring in funds he spent on himself and his family.

Guo, who is known by several names including Guo Wengui, Miles Kwok and Ho Wan Kwok, has been jailed in Brooklyn since his March 2023 arrest.

His defense team is also expected to give an opening statement on Friday.

Starting in 2018, prosecutors say Guo touted financial opportunities in Mandarin language online videos, offering investments in his media company, a purported cryptocurrency venture, and a farm loan program, as well as membership in what was billed as an exclusive club offering concierge services.

Prosecutors said Guo stole from the funds to buy a New Jersey mansion, a yacht, several luxury cars and other extravagances, including two $36,000 mattresses.

Guo faces twelve counts of fraud, racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering at the trial, which could stretch into July.

The Beijing critic has been a business associate of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s one-time adviser Steve Bannon.

It was on Guo’s $37 million yacht, the Lady May, where Bannon was arrested in 2020 in a separate fraud case. That case ended when Trump pardoned Bannon in the waning hours of his presidency. Bannon had pleaded not guilty.

Guo left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown under President Xi Jinping. Officials there accused Guo of bribery, money laundering and other crimes, which he has denied.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Billionaire businessman Guo Wengui speaks during an interview in New York City, U.S., April 30, 2017.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid//File Photo

After moving to the United States, Guo bought a home in the luxury Sherry-Netherland building on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, and drew ardent fans through his criticism of China’s government, including by accusing leaders of corruption.

At Beijing’s request, the global police organization Interpol in April 2017 issued a “red notice” for Guo’s arrest.

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