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Guo Wengui, Chinese billionaire and associate of Steve Bannon, denied bail in $1 billion fraud case

It was on Guo’s yacht that Bannon, the former chief White House strategist for Donald Trump, was arrested in a criminal fraud case in 2020.
FILE - In this courtroom sketch, Guo Wengui, seated center, and his attorney Tamara Giwa, left, appear in federal court in New York, March 15, 2023. Guo, a self-exiled Chinese businessman charged in a $1 billion fraud case, will remain behind bars after a federal judge rejected a proposed $25 million bail package Thursday, April 20, 2023, saying there was clear and convincing evidence he would remain an economic threat and a flight risk if he were freed. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams, File)
In this courtroom sketch, Guo Wengui, seated center, and his attorney Tamara Giwa, left, appear in federal court in New York, on March 15, 2023. Elizabeth Williams / AP file

Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire and associate of Steve Bannon, was denied bail on Thursday after being charged in a $1 billion fraud case in March.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres rejected Guo’s proposed bail package, saying he must remain behind bars pending trial because there is “no condition or set of conditions” that would ensure his return to court or the safety of the community, according to the court order.  

Torres said Guo “has means and know-how to flee.” While law enforcement officials have confiscated two passports and copies of another passport from Guo, the judge said a “clever defendant with sufficient resources could figure out a way to leave the country without travel documents.”

It was on Guo's yacht that Bannon, the former chief White House strategist and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was arrested in a fraud case in 2020. Trump pardoned Bannon in 2021.

In hopes of obtaining bail, Guo’s lawyer, Stephen Cook, said in a court filing that Guo would remain in the country if he was released on bond, “because the risk to his life is simply too great for him to leave.”

Guo has pleaded not guilty. Cook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Guo is an exiled Chinese businessman and has lived in the United States since around 2015. He was arrested and charged by federal authorities in New York in March for allegedly orchestrating a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of more than $1 billion. 

Prosecutors allege that Guo promised his followers “outsized financial returns and other benefits.” Guo then misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars of the fraudulently obtained funds, which went towards his lavish lifestyle. 

“Kwok 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,” prosecutors said. 

The judge on Thursday also said Guo’s proposed bail package — which amounted to a $25 million bond, $5 million which would be secured by cash or real estate — was “insufficient,” noting he filed for bankruptcy and claimed to only have $10,000 in assets.

Even though Guo offered his bond to be signed by two adults, including a relative, Torres said in the order that several of his family members have been accused of being “recipients of fraud proceeds.” Torres said Guo hasn’t identified a co-signer — with a sufficient net worth and ties to the U.S. — who would have a “moral suasion” over him.

Meanwhile, the judge said GPS monitoring for Guo would be “inadequate,” because “ankle monitors can be removed and ensure only a reduced head start should a defendant decide to flee.” Torres also nixed his suggestion of using private security, citing that it’s “not as reliable as a federal jail.”

“Further, Defendant’s past obstructive conduct in civil litigation, in his bankruptcy proceeding, and in this case, as well as his actions following the SEC order and the seizure of funds, demonstrate that the Court does not have reasonable assurance that Defendant will abide by any conditions of pretrial release,” she added.