Exiled Chinese businessman Guo charged with fraud

STORY: Exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui was charged on Wednesday with leading a complex conspiracy to defraud his online followers out of more than $1 billion.

According to authorities, Guo, with help from his longtime financial adviser Kin Ming Je, cheated thousands by promising "outsized" investment returns, but diverted much of their money to fund lavish lifestyles for himself and his family.

A prominent critic of China's Communist Party, Guo left the country in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown under President Xi Jinping.

He was accused there of crimes including bribery and money laundering, but has denied wrongdoing.

In the U.S., Guo has been a business associate of Steve Bannon - a former adviser to Donald Trump.

Bannon was arrested in a fraud case in August 2020 while aboard Guo's yacht, the Lady May.

He was later pardoned by Trump in the final hours of his presidency.

Guo - who was arrested on Wednesday - faces 11 criminal counts that include securities fraud, wire fraud and concealment of money laundering, carrying several decades of potential prison time.

Following the arrest, a fire broke out on the 18th floor at the Sherry-Netherland hotel, where Guo has an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

There were no reported injuries.

This afternoon, Guo pleaded not guilty and is being detained without bail.

A lawyer for Guo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.