An exiled Chinese billionaire with ties to former President Trump’s onetime political strategist Steve Bannon was arrested on Wednesday in connection with an alleged scheme to solicit investments from hundreds of thousands of his online followers.
The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a 12-count federal indictment charging Ho Wan Kwok with wire fraud, bank fraud, securities fraud and money laundering. Kwok is known by a number of other aliases, including “Miles Guo” and “Guo Wengui,” and has a “significant online following,” according to the department.
Kwok allegedly “led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in the DOJ release.
He pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. His financier Kin Ming Je is also charged with obstruction of justice but remains at large.
As alleged, Kwok falsely promised his followers “outsized returns” if they invested in or donated to his business ventures: GTV Media Group, Himalaya Farm Alliance, G|CLUBS, and the Himalaya Exchange.
“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,” Williams said.
Prosecutors also allege Kwok laundered hundreds of millions of stolen dollars “to conceal the conspiracy’s illegal activities,” which ran from 2018 to 2023. Prosecutors said approximately $634 million has been seized from 21 different bank accounts.
Kwok left China for the U.S. in 2014 and has since been accused of a number of offenses by the Chinese government. The businessman developed a relationship with political strategist Bannon, and the pair worked together to launch an initiative they said was meant to bring down the Chinese Communist Party. Bannon’s arrest back in 2020 took place on Kwok’s yacht.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.