Fugitive Chinese billionaire and Bannon ally threatens to leave the US after judge orders him to pay $134m or face arrest

Chinese billionaire faces threat of arrest from furious judge

John Bowden
Thursday 10 February 2022 19:38 GMT
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A judge on Thursday issued a furious order targeting a Chinese billionaire and ally of Steve Bannon, a member of Donald Trump’s inner circle, ordering him to either pay $134m or face arrest for his violation of a previous court order.

In a ruling, a judge from the New York County Supreme Court excoriated Guo Wengui for hiding billions of dollars’ worth of assets around the US and elsewhere including in the form of a superyacht named the Lady May. Judge Barry Ostrager faulted Mr Guo in his ruling for hiding the craft outside of US jurisdiction in the Bahamas in violation of a previous order.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (R) greets fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui before introducing him at a news conference on November 20, 2018 in New York
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon (R) greets fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui before introducing him at a news conference on November 20, 2018 in New York (AFP via Getty Images)

“Those proceedings established, among other things, that [Guo] exercised dominion and control over a yacht called the Lady May and resulted in a series of orders restraining [Guo] and/or the registered owners of the yacht called Lady May from removing the Lady May from the Court’s jurisdiction,” wrote the judge.

Nevertheless, “[Guo] and his cohorts made arrangement for the Lady May to sail to Florida in early October 2020 and, thereafter, to the Bahamas,” the court filing continues, adding that a subsequent judgement ordered Mr Guo to return the yacht to US waters or face a fine of $500,000 per day.

That fine has now compounded to a $134m fee that Mr Guo was ordered on Thursday to pay within five business days, or risk arrest.

“The Court has the authority to hold [Mr Guo] in civil contempt ... and ‘“to punish [him], by fine and imprisonment’”, wrote the judge.

Mr Guo subsequently announced plans to flee the US on a livestream first reported by J Michael Waller of the Center for Security Policy, where he reportedly talked about leaving for Japan or possibly the UK. He will likely not return to China, where he is accused of a host of crimes including rape, any time soon. Mr Guo has denied the accusations which he claims are linked to his criticism of China’s Communist Party.

Mr Bannon was arrested on the Lady May in 2020. He was charged, at the time, with fraud in relation to the “We Build The Wall” scheme, a privately-fundraised effort to construct fencing along stretches of land near the US-Mexico border. Mr Bannon was later pardoned by Mr Trump as one of his last acts before leaving Washington.

He also previously served on the board of a nonprofit, the Rule of Law Society, which is tied to Mr Guo. The New York Times reported that Mr Bannon and Mr Guo began working together shortly after Mr Bannon was ousted from the White House by then-chief of staff John Kelly.

It isn’t clear if the wealthy businessman has ever interacted with Donald Trump personally, but he was reported by the Times to be a member at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. It was reported in 2017 by The Wall Street Journal that Mr Trump, while president, decided against extraditing Mr Guo to China after learning of his membership at the club.

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