Exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui was arrested in New York on Wednesday morning on charges of massive fraud that resulted in investors losing out on $1.4 billion. Things took an even darker turn when, hours after his arrest, his luxury penthouse apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, worth $32.5 million, caught fire.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, revealed that Guo had allegedly used the money stolen from investors to fund his lavish lifestyle. "Guo is charged with lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and even two $36,000 mattresses, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht," Williams said.
The fraud allegation stem from four separate schemes, three of which were related to GTV Media Group, a Chinese social media company formed in April 2020 by Guo and Steve Bannon. Bannon had been arrested on Guo's yacht in August 2020, charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering, but he has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with GTV.
The fourth alleged scheme related to Guo was an unrelated crypto venture called H-Coin, or Himalaya Coin. However his rhetoric did not match the reality when Guo filed for bankruptcy protection in February 2022, claiming assets valued between $50,000 and $100,000 and liabilities of up to $500 million. The Department of Justice seized over $630 million of alleged fraud proceeds from 21 different bank accounts controlled by Guo between September 2022 and March 2023.
Guo had originally fled China in 2014, in anticipation of fraud charges, and he had been an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party since then. He filed an application for political asylum in the U.S. in 2017, which is still pending.