Steve Bannon’s go-to funder Guo Wengui just got indicted for fraud

Steve Bannon and Guo Wengui shake hands in front of a black background, at the start of a news conference.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon, right, greets fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui on November 20, 2018 in New York. | Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

The charges against the pro-MAGA exiled Chinese billionaire, explained.

Some call him Miles Guo. Others call him Guo Wengui. To top Trump allies like Steve Bannon and Jason Miller, he is an ally and a business partner. But, to federal authorities, he is an alleged felony fraudster. On Wednesday, the FBI arrested Guo on 12 counts of felony fraud in New York. It marks another remarkable chapter in the bizarre saga of Guo, who has gone from a fugitive Chinese billionaire to a key figure on the MAGA right. His organization, the New Federal State of China, was a major sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference this year.

Who is Guo Wengui?

Guo fled China for the United States in 2014, facing allegations of corruption. He has since settled in New York, where he has become a vocal critic of the Chinese regime on social media. However, Guo has become a divisive figure in the community of exiled Chinese dissidents. He has claimed that many other dissidents living in the United States are actually secret agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and has organized pickets to protest outside of their houses. This has led to suggestions that Guo is actually an agent of the CCP, something which he has vociferously denied.

The key to Guo’s influence in the United States is the alliance he has made with Steve Bannon, the former top Trump aide turned vocal advocate of former President Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. Bannon and Guo have partnered to create the New Federal State of China, which claims to be the government in exile of mainland China; Guo also helped fund Gettr, a right-wing Twitter alternative led by Jason Miller, a top 2016 campaign Trump aide who has since joined his 2024 reelection effort. Gettr was developed out of a Chinese language social media network tied to Guo called Getome. On the eve of the 2020 election, Chinese-language media outlets and allies of Guo were the first to publish the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop at Bannon’s behest.

Bannon was even arrested on Guo’s yacht in 2020 on charges of fraud over a $25 million scheme to crowdfund the construction of a wall on the US-Mexico border. Authorities alleged that Bannon and his allies pocketed the money instead. Bannon was pardoned by Trump before the former president left office in 2021.

What is Guo accused of?

Guo is alleged to have participated in an elaborate effort to defraud his online supporters in his campaign against the Chinese government of over $1 billion. He allegedly did this through falsely soliciting them to invest in his businesses and then misappropriating the funds for personal use. Among his alleged fraudulent schemes were soliciting $262 million in investments in a cryptocurrency “ecosystem” called the Himalaya Exchange, as well as a private club membership program called G|CLUBS, which attracted over $250 million in investment and purported to be “an exclusive, high-end membership program offering a full spectrum of services.”

The indictment alleges that Guo has used the money to buy a mansion, Ferrari and Bugatti sports cars, and two $36,000 mattresses in addition to using money for upkeep on his yacht, which is worth $37 million. The indictment says federal law enforcement has already seized over $634 million in fraud proceeds from Guo over the past six months.

What happens now?

Guo is in federal custody and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. In the meantime, his arrest represents a major setback for the Bannon-linked MAGA right, with one of Bannon’s key funders facing criminal indictment and having over half a billion in assets seized by the federal government. Bannon, though, has always kept his eyes open when it comes to Guo. Speaking to the New Yorker in 2022, the former Trump aide said, “He’s done more than anybody to wake this country up to the threats of the CCP as a transnational criminal organization and an existential threat to America. Whether he’s working for a faction or he’s hedging his bets, the stuff he’s done and what he’s galvanized is just relentless.”

Bannon has become a major player in right-wing media through his War Room program, a daily livestream where he holds forth with guests to promote his populist Trumpist vision of the world. Its theme song, titled “Take Down The CCP,” is performed by Guo and has an accompanying music video showing Guo in a variety of luxurious settings including his yacht and his Central Park penthouse. The theme song may remain, but it is unlikely that Guo will be in the same luxurious settings in the near future.

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