Chinese tycoon faces US trial over $1.35 billion investor swindle

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May 23, 2024, 01:04 PM


May 23, 2024, 01:04 PM

NEW YORK - The trial of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui began this week in New York, where he’s accused of swindling more than US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) from investors in a complex fraud scheme that netted him luxuries including a US$26 million New Jersey mansion and a US$37 million yacht.

Opening arguments could start this week, once a jury is selected.

The outspoken businessman, also known as Ho Wan Kwok or Miles Guo, will be tried before an anonymous jury that US Marshals will escort to and from the courthouse each day - an unusual move to protect the people who will decide a case that’s drawn intense interest. The government argues jurors need to be shielded from Guo and his supporters while Guo, a sharp critic of the Chinese government, says it’s the Chinese Community Party that poses the threat.

Guo, who referred to himself as “Brother Seven” in online videos before his arrest in March 2023, is accused of tricking investors into handing over US$1 billion for what they thought were promising investment opportunities in crypto, a social media platform and a farm loan programme.

He has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges and claims he never defrauded anyone, let alone fellow members of his “Chinese pro-democracy movement.” Guo has been held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center since his arrest.

According to prosecutors, Guo fled to the United States in 2015 and settled in a US$67.5 million penthouse in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on the Upper East Side. He built a strong online following criticizing the Chinese Communist Party, pitching investments to his supporters in the process.

Guo, who applied for asylum in the US in 2017, also forged ties to former president Donald Trump’s inner-circle. When former Trump campaign chairman St...

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