Subject of spectacle

Mr Guo, 54, an associate of political firebrand Steve Bannon, has been sharply critical of the Chinese Communist Party and has lived in the US since 2015, according to the US. He has long been the subject of legal wrangling.

Fundraiser Elliott Broidy pleaded guilty in 2020 to illegally lobbying Mr Trump’s White House to seek the extradition of Mr Guo and squelch the investigation of 1MDB, the Malaysian fund at the centre of a spectacular global bribery scandal. Mr Trump later pardoned Mr Broidy.

Mr Bannon, the chief strategist of Trump’s victorious 2016 presidential campaign, was on board Mr Guo’s yacht in 2020 when he was arrested for fraud in connection a nonprofit group that took private donations to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. Mr Bannon, whom Mr Trump pardoned on the federal charges, still faces related charges in New York state court and has pleaded not guilty.

The indictment unsealed on Wednesday includes 11 criminal counts against Mr Guo and Mr Je and one charge of obstruction against Mr Je, who is also known as William Je. The most serious charges, including fraud and money laundering, carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Mr Je is a dual citizen of Hong Kong and the UK who lived in London at the time of the alleged crimes. The US claims he ran numerous companies and investment vehicles involved in the scheme and was its financial architect and money launderer.

Seized Lamborghini

Prosecutors seized the $US634 million from 21 bank accounts tied to the alleged fraud, which they say Mr Guo and Mr Je committed through a series of securities offerings, Mr Williams said in the statement. A Lamborghini Aventador is among the seized assets.

One of the fake business opportunities the government says Mr Guo and Mr Je touted involved the Himalaya Exchange, a cryptocurrency “ecosystem” that featured the Himalaya Dollar, pitched as a stablecoin. To cover their tracks, they allegedly employed a money-laundering network involving more than 500 accounts held by at least 80 people and entities, according to the US.

In 2018, prosecutors said, Mr Guo set up two groups, the Rule of Law Society and the Rule of Law Foundation, to attract people who supported his efforts against the Chinese Communist Party. The US alleges he plied his hundreds of thousands of online followers with fraudulent investment opportunities, promising them unrealistic returns.

Gold reserves

Instead, the government says, from 2018 until this month, Mr Guo, Mr Je and unidentified co-conspirators fleeced thousands of victims out of more than $US1 billion.

Prosecutors claim Mr Guo and Mr Je solicited money from their followers for an unregistered stock placement for their GTV Media Group, selling $US452 million in common stock. The government says the pair reaped another $US262 million from the Himalaya Exchange pitch.

The criminal charges follow a lawsuit earlier in the day by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr Guo was behind three unregistered securities offerings for GTV Media Group and another to buy a crypto security he falsely said was backed by gold reserves, according to the suit.


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