US trial for exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui set for April 2024

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui will face trial starting April 8, 2024 on U.S. charges of leading a more than $1 billion fraud.

U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres set the date at a Tuesday hearing in Manhattan federal court.

Guo is a prominent critic of China’s Communist Party, and business associate of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s onetime adviser Steve Bannon.

He has been jailed since his March arrest, when prosecutors accused him of defrauding thousands of followers by promising “outsized” investment returns, and diverting much of their money to fund lavish lifestyles for himself and his family.

Guo, whose other names include Ho Wan Kwok and Miles Kwok, has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges including securities fraud, wire fraud and concealing money laundering.

Upon entering the crowded courtroom, a handcuffed Guo appeared to make eye contact with several audience members of the audience, and clasped his hands in a prayer motion. More than a dozen audience members waved back.

Prosecutor Ryan Finkel estimated that the government’s case could take four weeks, while Guo’s lawyer Stephen Cook said the defense case would take two to three weeks.

Torres granted Guo’s request for a laptop to review evidence while he is held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

Guo is appealing Torres’ denial of his proposed $25 million bail package.

Guo left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown under President Xi Jinping.

Officials there have accused Guo of crimes including bribery and money laundering. Guo has denied wrongdoing.

Bannon had himself been arrested in a 2020 fraud case while aboard Guo’s yacht. Trump later pardoned Bannon.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Marguerita Choy)