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Chinese tycoon linked to protests at Surrey man’s home charged in $1B U.S. fraud case

A Chinese business tycoon with links to Steve Bannon and a recurring protest outside a Surrey, B.C., man’s home has been arrested and charged in an alleged billion-dollar fraud conspiracy.

U.S. law enforcement seized more than $630 million in the operation against Ho Wan Kwok, also known as “Miles Guo,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said in a media release Wednesday.

Kwok and Bannon, a former adviser to Donald Trump, are co-founders of a group called the New Federal State of China, which aims to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party.

But the group has also made headlines for targeting perceived opponents in Canada in the U.S., picketing outside their homes — like Bingchen (Benson) Gao in Surrey.

Demonstrators clad in New Federal State of China clothing protested outside Gao’s home for 77 days in 2020, and were back again in January.

The group would say little to Global News at the time, save calling Gao “very dangerous,” but carries signs calling Gao a “CCP agent” and calling for his expulsion from Canada.

Gao, a journalist who writes for a Vancouver Chinese-language newspaper and a long-time critic of the Chinese government, told Global News in January he’s a Canadian citizen and believes he is being targeted because he has written previously about the New Federal State of China.

In one incident, two protesters were arrested after allegedly assaulting one of Gao’s friends in 2020, leaving him with a facial fracture, swollen shut eyes and a lost tooth.

“I thought I lived under democracy. Now I’m living in fear and terror,” he told Global News in 2020.

Surrey RCMP told Global News they’re aware of the protests, but that cannot intervene if the demonstrators stick to public property.

Gao is not alone in being targeted by the group.

In granting an injunction against Kwok in January, U.S. District of Connecticut Bankruptcy Court Judge Julia Manning wrote the NFSC was involved in harassment of multiple people involved in bankruptcy proceedings against him.

Kwok “supports, encourages, and is the leader of a social media and protest campaign targeting the Plaintiffs, their counsel, and their relatives, at personal homes and workplaces,” she wrote.

In its Wednesday media release, U.S. law enforcement alleged a “sprawling and complex scheme” by Kwok and his associate William Je to solicit bogus investments from hundreds of thousands of Kwok’s online followers worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Kwok was arrested Wednesday morning, and the U.S. Attorney’s office said the federal government had seized $634 million from 21 bank accounts.

Investigators also seized a variety of luxury goods in the investigation, including a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ Roads,

“Kwok, known to many as ‘Miles Guo,’ led a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of over $1 billion dollars,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in the media release.

“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 allege Kwok lied to investors, promising them outsized returns for money put into an entity called “Himalaya Farm Alliance, G|CLUBS, and the Himalaya Exchange.”

He is also accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen funds to conceal his illegal activities and keep the fraud going.

Prosecutors allege Kwok, who has been in the U.S. since 2015, used two other purportedly non-profit groups he founded, the Rule of Law Foundation and the Rule of Law Society, to amass online followers aligned with his goals in China, and who were vulnerable to his investment appeals.

Kwok was once believed to be among the richest people in China. He left in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people close to Kwok, including a top intelligence official. Chinese authorities have accused Kwok of rape, kidnapping, bribery and other offenses.

Since then, has been highly sought by that nation’s government, relying on the U.S. for protection.

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 Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former political strategist. Kwok and Bannon in 2020 announced the founding of a joint initiative they said was aimed at overthrowing the Chinese government.

Kwok has long argued that the allegations against him in China were false, saying they were intended to punish him for publicly outing corruption there and criticizing leading figures in the Communist Party.

He now faces 11 fraud and money-laundering charges, along with a charge of obstruction of justice, and if convicted could face more than 100 years in prison.

Prosecutors have asked for him to be held without bail because he is a flight risk.

Global News has requested comment from Kwok through the Rule of Law Foundation and his lawyers.

-With files from the Associated Press

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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