Self-exiled Chinese businessman’s chief of staff pleads guilty weeks before trial

May 3, 2024, 9:37 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — The chief of staff of a Chinese businessman sought by the government of China pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges on Friday, weeks before her boss goes to trial in New York in a $1 billion fraud case.

Yvette Wang entered the plea in Manhattan federal court three weeks before she was to stand trial with Guo Wengui.

Guo has pleaded not guilty to defrauding hundreds of thousands of followers in the U.S. and around the world of over $1 billion.

At a sentencing scheduled for Sept. 10, Wang faces up to 10 years in prison. Without the plea, she could have faced life in prison if she was convicted.

Wang, 45, spoke only English during her plea proceeding, letting the earphones she was provided by an interpreter dangle below her ears as she described her crimes. Wearing jail clothing, she wore leg shackles throughout the proceeding.

She admitted conspiring with Guo and others to commit wire fraud and money laundering from 2018 through March 2023 by giving false information to induce victims to send money through entities and organizations including Guo’s media company, GTV Media Group Inc., and his so-called Himalaya Farm Alliance and the Himalaya Exchange, in return for stock or cryptocurrency.

Prosecutors say hundreds of thousands of investors were convinced to invest more than $1 billion into entities Guo controlled.

According to a charging document, Wang on June 5, 2020, authorized a wire transfer of $100 million from GTV’s parent company, Saraca Media Group Inc. to a high-risk hedge fund for the benefit of Saraca and its ultimate beneficial owner, Guo’s son. Prosecutors said the $100 million consisted of investor funds obtained through fraudulent claims.

During her plea, Wang said she “knew what I was doing was wrong.”

She added: “I take full responsibility and I’m very sorry for my actions, your honor.”

Guo was once believed to be among the richest people in China. In 2014, he left during an anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people close to Guo, including a top intelligence official.

Since then, he has been highly sought by that nation’s government, relying on the U.S. for protection as Chinese authorities accused him of rape, kidnapping, bribery and other offenses. He has long argued that the those claims were false, saying they were meant to punish him for publicly outing corruption there and criticizing key Communist Party figures.

As he lived in New York as a fugitive he became an outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party and developed a close relationship with Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former political strategist. Guo and Bannon in 2020 announced the founding of a joint initiative they said was aimed at overthrowing the Chinese government

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Self-exiled Chinese businessman’s chief of staff pleads guilty weeks before trial