The Wall Street Journal broke the news that fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui (aka Miles Kwok) is allegedly a spy for the Communist Party of China, and not the dissident he claims to be.
The allegation came in a July 19, 2019 counterclaim to a lawsuit that a Guo surrogate brought against a Virginia-based political intelligence company, with which Dr. Waller was a contractor.
Below is a reprint of section of Strategic Vision’s counterclaim against Guo Wengui and his surrogates. Some portions appear in bold face for emphasis. The paragraph numbers are from the original, which can be downloaded in its entirety here: http://jmichaelwaller.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/114_Strategic__7-19-19-Answer-and-Counterclaims-to-Second-Amended-Complaint.pdf
Initial media coverage appeared in:
- Wall Street Journal: “Chinese Tycoon Holed Up in Manhattan Hotel Is Accused of Spying for Beijing,” July 22;
- Miami Herald, “High Profile Chinese Fugitive Accused of Being a Spy for China’s Communist Government,” July 23;
- South China Morning Post, “Is Guo Wengui, Chinese Fugitive Tycoon and Member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Also a Spy?” Tribune News Service, July 24;
- AlterNet, “Billionaire Mar-a-Lago Member Accused of Spying for the Chinese Government in Civil Court Filing,” July 25;
- Talking Points Memo, “Mystery Surrounds Flamboyant, GOP-Linked Chinese Exile Billionaire,” July 26.
The reprinted section of the Strategic Vision counterclaim appears below.
Guo: ‘Not the dissident he claimed to be’
48. Eastern Profit’s breaches of the Contract and frustration of Strategic Vision’s performance are unsurprising in retrospect, because Guo never intended to use the fruits of Strategic Vision’s research against the Chinese Communist Party. That is because Guo was not the dissident he claimed to be. Instead, Guo Wengui was, and is, a dissident-hunter, propagandist, and agent in the service of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party.
49. In the parties’ December meetings at his apartment in New York City, Guo claimed to Strategic Vision that he had a long history of speaking out against the Chinese regime, and that he was now in America as a dissident and asylum-seeker. He claimed to want to use his country of refuge as a base to gather intelligence on high-ranking Communist officials and, through public criticisms of them, to give aid and comfort to opponents of the Chinese Communist regime both inside and outside China.
50. Yet much of Guo’s origin story is untrue.
51. Guo claims, and claimed to Strategic Vision, that he was arrested and imprisoned in May 1989 during the Tiananmen Square massacre for providing money to help protesters. In fact, Guo lived and was arrested in Puyang, Henan province, 750 miles away from Beijing. The Tiananmen Square massacre did not occur until June 4, 1989, after Guo had already been imprisoned for running a fraudulent oil sales operation.
52. Guo quickly built a fortune in China during the late 1990s and 2000s primarily through real estate speculation and investment. During that time, a Chinese citizen could enjoy a rapid increase in wealth only through the support, sponsorship, or protection of high-ranking individuals within the Chinese Communist Party.
53. Guo’s protector, beginning in about 2004, was Ma Jian, Vice Minister of the Ministry of State Security (“MSS”) until Ma’s arrest and expulsion from the Party in December 2014 after losing an intra-Party power struggle. The MSS is responsible for internal security, foreign intelligence, and political repression. One of Ma’s duties was to run the MSS’s No. 8 Bureau, which is in charge of counterintelligence against foreign targets, including diplomats, businessmen, and reporters. The MSS has a role not only in repressing domestic political dissent, but also in monitoring and suppressing activities overseas that are deemed to be subversive of the Chinese Communist Party. This includes overseas dissidents, who the CCP views as traitors to China.
54. On information and belief, Guo was a “long-time employee of Vice Minister Ma Jian.” On information and belief, Guo paid MSS officials and bought surveillance equipment for the MSS in exchange for favors. Guo was able to use his connection with Ma and the MSS against Guo’s business rivals in China, while the MSS was able to use Guo’s business empire against its own targets in China.
55. Guo has claimed he was forced to leave China in late 2014 with the onset of official reprisals against members of Ma’s faction of the CCP. CCP Chairman and Chinese President Xi Jinping had waged an anti-corruption campaign against members of the most ostentatiously corrupt CCP factions. Ma, in his MSS secret police capacity, had supposedly amassed evidence of corruption among Xi Jinping loyalists such as Wang Qishan, who was the CCP’s anti-corruption leader and member of the powerful Politburo Standing Committee. Wang Qishan purportedly struck first, charged Ma with corruption, and stripped Ma of his CCP membership. Only after Guo became a public figure in the United States in 2017 did authorities move to charge Ma, eventually claiming to put him on “trial” in 2018, whereupon he was reportedly found guilty and given a suspended death sentence.
56. In Guo’s telling, reprisals began against him following the fall of Ma, starting in January 2015. Thus, in a case filed by Guo and companies purportedly controlled by him on January 30, 2018 against a Chinese-American billionaire businessman with close ties to the Chinese regime (Guo, Beijing Pangu, Beijing Zenith v. Bruno Wu), the complaint states, “In total, approximately 27 employees of the Plaintiff Companies were arrested from January-to-May 2015.” The complaint then notes that the assets of companies purportedly owned and controlled by Guo started suffering the seizure of assets “in or around late January and early February 2015” and that, as of a January 2018 filing, the businesses had “halted nearly all regular business operations.”
57. Following this narrative, in more than a dozen complaints and counterclaims in court litigation in the United States, Guo has consistently claimed that he came to the United States on precisely January 9, 2015. Numerous contemporaneous media accounts from January 2015, however, report that Guo was actually forced to return to China for interrogation on or around January 9, 2015. Bloomberg News’ description of the incident in a story published January 25, 2015 was that “Miles Kwok, also known as Guo Wengui, was taken in by authorities.” Guo claims, however, to have avoided the fate that befell others who were purportedly pursued in the aftermath of Ma’s fall. Even though (as he claimed) 27 of his employees and family were arrested and his assets were being seized, Guo was released from custody, and was even allowed to leave China and come to the United States.
58. By March 2015, roughly a month after what Guo claimed was the starting point of China’s seizure of billions of dollars of his assets, Guo had purchased his $68 million Sherry Netherland penthouse home in New York City. Money for the purchase of the unit was wired from the Hong Kong bank account of Bravo Luck Limited on or around March 4, 2015. The sale was approved by the co-op board of directors on March 24, 2015, and the next day, March 25, the Chinese publication Caixin ran an excerpt of a 10,000-word profile, which ostensibly gave a comprehensive account of Guo’s entire life story, his business history, and his purported credentials as a dissident. The full article ran two days later. It did not mention his January 9, 2015 detention or his highly improbable release, even as his employees and family members were purportedly being arrested and assets were purportedly being seized.
59. Even if the Chinese government had actually been seizing Guo’s assets by late January and early February 2015 and Guo had, despite that, somehow been able to wire over $60 million from Hong Kong to New York for the purchase of his Sherry-Netherland apartment in March 2015, Guo’s subsequent actions shortly afterwards in 2015 further undercut his “dissident” narrative. In May 2015, Guo attempted to purchase a substantial portion of a multibillion-dollar private placement of H-shares (those available in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange) in Haitong Securities, with his efforts reportedly involving billions of U.S. dollars’ worth of investment from ACA. According to Guo’s own affidavit dated February 5, 2016 and filed in Ace Decade Holding v. UBS under Guo’s Cantonese alias “Ho Wan Kwok,” Guo transferred approximately $260 million in U.S. dollar-denominated assets in a New York bank account on May 13, 2015 to an account at China Minsheng Bank in Hong Kong, an institution explicitly regulated and monitored by the very Chinese authorities who only three months earlier had supposedly seized most of Guo’s assets. Shortly after transferring the funds to the Hong Kong-based bank, Guo reportedly purchased over USD $1 billion of H-shares in Haitong Securities, a high-profile action that would seem inexplicably reckless for someone who had just endured the supposed arrest of 27 of his employees and family members, never mind the purported seizure of most or perhaps all of his assets.
60. Between the spring of 2015 and the January 2017 inauguration of President Trump, Guo made few public statements. In fact, he made no public statements as a dissident, and never criticized Xi Jinping. But newly-elected President Trump promised a harder line on China, visibly backed by advisers such as Stephen K. Bannon. From that time forward, Guo assumed a brash public personality, quickly constructing an active social media profile and attacking his perceived enemies with caustic rhetoric.
61. On or about March 1, 2017, Guo arrived again in New York City on a tourist visa and, except for a trip to an unknown location between March 11 and April 10, 2017, he has since remained in the United States. In a March 5, 2017, audio recording which, upon information and belief, Guo himself made, Guo stated: “In New York City right now… My operation is on.” He continued: “I have absolute confidence in General Secretary Xi,” referring to the Chinese President by his official Communist Party title.
62. Speaking of dissidents, Guo stated, “Our government spends too much budget every year… to let these bad guys go free.” He continued, “They never say anything good about China. They attack our CPC [CCP] central leaders… they deserve to die! So these people, I must teach them a lesson.” He offered, “I can take these bastards down and help our leaders to revenge.” Guo made specific threats about two dissidents, referring to them by their pen names. Of dissident journalist Wei Shi (whose real name is Weican “Watson” Meng), founder of Boxun.com, Guo stated, “Time to finish this bastard… I must end him.” Guo expressed similar sentiments about Wei Shi’s fellow dissident, known by the pen name Xi Nuo (and whose real name is Xianmin Xiong). Both dissidents write for Boxun.com.
63. Contemporaneously with these statements, Guo began to harass Wei Shi and Xi Nuo by having them and their families followed throughout the Greater New York City area. Guo also threatened members of Wei Shi’s family who were still living in China.
64. Additionally, Guo began to file defamation lawsuits against targeted Chinese dissidents in various jurisdictions. As of the filing of this pleading, Guo had been embroiled in litigation with Wei Shi, Xi Nuo, and at least eleven other dissidents. After a July 2, 2019 trial in one of the dissident cases, Guo made a video threatening litigation against several others. In a July 12, 2019 video, on information and belief, Guo makes additional threats against individuals who oppose the Chinese Communist Party, pledging to swamp them in litigation for life.
65. But Guo has also engaged himself in other kinds of litigation. A key part of Guo’s “dissident” narrative has been high-profile lawsuits that appear to pit him against Chinese regime-connected entities, such as HNA Group and Soho China. In every instance to date, despite heated rhetoric in all directions found in court filings for those cases, the cases languish without significant discovery or other development, with voluntary dismissals being filed, regardless of whether Guo was the plaintiff or defendant. In HNA Group v. Guo Wengui, for example, the plaintiff—whom Guo had accused of being secretly owned and controlled in large part by Wang Qishan—noted in filing for voluntary dismissal in March 2019 that, despite the case being initiated over 20 months earlier, “little to no discovery has occurred.” The suit brought by Chinese business publication Caixin—which has done more than any other media outlet to establish Guo’s supposed dissident bona fides—and its founder Hu Shuli had a similar end result. In that case, the plaintiff—widely believed to have enjoyed relative independence by the standards of mainland Chinese media because of the protection provided by Wang Qishan—filed for voluntary dismissal in September 2018, two days before the first discovery deadline.
66. Despite Guo’s initial moves, most of his plan of retribution—which Guo had seemingly disclosed to the CCP at least in March 2017—had yet to unfold during the remainder of that year. Publicly, Guo began a media and Twitter campaign alleging official corruption in China, attracting a following both within and outside China.
67. In January 2017, Guo launched his public campaign. His chosen medium consisted of at least two interviews with Mingjing, or Mirror Media, an online tabloid news outlet, which continued to interview and promote Guo throughout 2017. Mingjing’s founder, Ho Pin, had sold his previous media outlet, Duowei, to a Hong Kong businessman friendly with the Chinese government. And in the same year when it was providing a regular platform to Guo, a supposed enemy of the Chinese regime, Mingjing received a “large investment” from the People’s Republic of China, according to a report released by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in November 2018.
68. Guo also began to grant interviews with conservative media figures such as Bill Gertz of the Washington Times and Washington Free Beacon, burnishing Guo’s image as a dissident. The seminal story was an interview with Gertz which ran in the Free Beacon on July 11, 2017. Although these and other statements were and remain widely available to the public through Gertz’s article, Guo made similar statements to Strategic Vision several months later after the parties were introduced by Gertz.
69. In July 2017, for example, Guo told Gertz that he had been jailed for 22 months after taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. As alleged in Paragraph 51, later research showed that Guo was actually arrested for a fraudulent oil scheme before the Tiananmen Square Massacre, 750 miles away from Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
70. Gertz also reported in July 2017 that Guo had “broken with the regime,” but only “several months ago,” despite the fact that Guo had been detained, left China, moved to New York City and purchased his apartment over two years previously.
71. Guo denied to Gertz that Guo was part of a Communist leadership faction in Beijing, claiming instead that he began speaking out as part of a long-planned effort to bring democratic reform to China. “What I want to do is the change the whole system,” he claimed. “I want to change the Chinese government. Absolutely, the Chinese government is the mafia.” Guo further claimed to have details of a massive Chinese espionage effort against the United States, stating that he learned about Chinese spy activities from his protector, Ma Jian, and Ji Shengde, the former People’s Liberation Army intelligence chief. Yet Guo provided only general information, offering none of the alleged details he had claimed to have.
72. Guo warned that the United States should take counter-measures, because “if we do not have the United States exercising some kind of control over the world system, the world will turn into a place where men eat men.” Guo reiterated his purportedly strong beliefs: “I love my nation. I love my country, but I hate the Communist Party.”
73. Guo also claimed that Chinese officials had threatened him and his family, and that in a May 2017 meeting in his apartment, visiting high-ranking government intelligence (that is, MSS, the same entity in which Ma Jian had served as a leader) and Party Politburo officials had promised to release $17 billion in frozen assets and not seek his arrest or prosecution if he remained silent.
74. Guo later admitted that he had agreed to not one but two meetings with the Chinese intelligence and security officials in May 2017. The second meeting came after the MSS and Politburo officials were confronted by FBI agents at Penn Station and told to leave the country, but then returned to New York City to visit Guo at his Sherry-Netherland penthouse a second time. Guo disclosed that his wife had treated the officials to homemade dumplings.
75. On August 26, 2017, just three months after his meeting with Chinese officials and several weeks after his apparently tell-all Gertz interview, Guo penned a letter to Chinese officials. The statement has been translated into English and entered into evidence in Weican Meng v. Guo Wengui, Case No. 159636/2017 (N.Y. Supreme Court, New York County).
76. In that letter, Guo professed his personal loyalty to “Chairman Xi,” asking CCP leadership to convert his “influence and resources” to “best serve Chairman Xi Jinping’s China Dream!” The China Dream was first enunciated by Chairman Xi Jinping in 2012 as a slogan to inspire the population to strengthen China’s economy, military, and society in the service of greater socioeconomic progress inside China, and more aggressive foreign and military policy goals.
77. “Assign me tasks,” Guo implored, and “provide me with detailed instruction with particular reference to public statements I may make to the media.” Guo claimed that his statements in the United States, apparently including his statements to Gertz, were done “under coercion,” and that even when “forced” to give an interview to American media, “I did not cross the red line.” He promised, “I am doing the best I can under difficult circumstances to safeguard our nation’s interests and image,” and “I will continue not to cross the red line.” Asking that investigators cease efforts to “arrest and destroy” him, Guo promised to “completely obey orders given to me at their disposal—to serve Chairman Xi Jinping’s agenda and that of our nation!” More specifically, Guo offered to be a “propagandist,” using what he called “my own style of propaganda” outside of China, including in the United States.
78. Eleven days after making this pledge, Guo applied for political asylum in the United States. That application gave Guo an anticipated two to three years of freedom while the claim was being processed.
79. Just eight days before Guo made the statement, on August 18, 2017, Steve Bannon left the White House and would return within days to his former media outlet, Breitbart. Days later, favorable articles about Guo began to appear in Breitbart. Upon information and belief, Bannon was familiar with Guo’s case from Bannon’s time within the Trump administration, and was in contact with Guo either in person or through one or more interlocutors while Bannon worked in the White House.
80. By October 2017, Bannon had begun appearing with Guo in public and on Guo’s self-made YouTube videos. Guo continually pulled Bannon more closely in to his circle, eventually appointing Bannon as Chairman of his “Rule of Law Society,” a New York-based, Delaware-incorporated not-for-profit entity that claims tax status as an I.R.C. Section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.
81. In mid-September 2017, Bannon made a sudden trip to Hong Kong, where a Chinese state-owned brokerage and investment group—the nation’s largest—paid him to give what the Financial Times called a “closed door” speech. In that speech, his first after leaving the White House, Bannon praised Xi Jinping, stating that Xi is “just like President Trump.” Bannon’s praise for Xi contrasted with his statement to the New York Times, published several days before, in which Bannon compared modern-day China under Xi to prewar 1930s Nazi Germany. Bannon then continued to Beijing. There, he secretly met for 90 minutes with none other than Wang Qishan, the official most often accused of corruption by Guo, and the one who Guo blames for bringing down his protector, Ma Jian, in 2014, leading to Guo’s departure from China. On information and belief, Bannon’s meeting with Wang Qishan was not for any official purpose, and was therefore likely undertaken as a courier for Guo. On information and belief, any meeting pertaining to Guo was likely for the purpose of receiving the “detailed instruction” that Guo just a few weeks before had solicited from the Chinese Communist Party leadership so that Guo could “serve Chairman Xi Jinping’s agenda” as an agent in the United States.
82. In the succeeding months, Guo continued his dissident-like statements, but it is now apparent that he made no criticism of Xi Jinping. In a December 9, 2017 interview, just weeks before slotting in Eastern Profit as Strategic Vision’s contracting party, Guo called for Chinese regime change and attacked the Communist Party, but praised Xi Jinping as “the most human, most emotional person out of all the officials.” On information and belief, Guo has never issued a statement critical of Xi Jinping or revealed anything of legitimate intelligence value to the United States, staying consistent with his pledge not to “cross the red line.”
83. Meanwhile, Guo and his close-knit circle have continued their campaign against Chinese dissidents and their allies in the United States.
84. In the spring of 2019, Guo shared with Steve Bannon the uncorrected and unsigned deposition transcript of Michael Waller, conducted and transcribed for use only by Eastern Profit in this case. Bannon remarked to individuals not connected with this litigation that he had read the transcript. Specifically, Bannon approached Brian Kennedy and Frank Gaffney, who are, respectively, the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger-China (“CPDC”), a group founded in March 2019 to raise awareness of, and develop national security policies toward, the threat posed by China. Gaffney is also the Executive Chairman of the Center for Security Policy (“CSP”), which staffs and pays the expenses of CPDC and is also Waller’s employer.
85. To this point, Bannon and Waller had had a positive relationship, Bannon had invited Waller to his home for Bannon-sponsored events, and Bannon had never discussed Guo with Waller. Nonetheless, Bannon—himself a member of the CPDC—cited the instant litigation in pressuring Kennedy and Gaffney to remove Waller from the CPDC. They refused, whereupon Bannon threatened to use his influence to have Gaffney himself removed. Shortly before these events, board members of the Bannon-Guo Rule of Law Society had discussed possible ways to provide large amounts of funding to either the CSP or the ad-hoc CPDC itself through the Rule of Law operation, an organization reportedly funded and controlled by Guo. Waller therefore saw this as a Guo attempt to gain control of CPDC’s operations. These efforts were rebuffed, as they were seen as indirect donations from Guo himself. On June 13, 2019, Bannon conveyed to Gaffney threats that Guo “has more money than God” and intends to file litigation against Waller personally. This threat is credible because it follows Guo’s pattern of behavior with Chinese dissidents. Upon information and belief, Bannon acts as an agent of influence for Guo Wengui in the United States.
86. In short, the sum of Guo’s behavior, from his arrival in the United States in 2015 to his continuing cultivation of individuals such as Gertz and Bannon through 2019, show that he is not the dissident he has claimed to be. Rather, Guo Wengui acts as an agent of influence on behalf of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping and the Chinese MSS.
87. Had Guo disclosed his true purpose in entering the Contract with Strategic Vision in December 2017 and January 2018—to bolster his position within the Chinese Communist Party and ingratiate himself with Xi Jinping—Strategic Vision never would have contracted with him, let alone desired to meet him in the first place.
88. Strategic Vision has been damaged, among other ways, by the exposure of its capabilities and informational connections to a Chinese Communist agent; by the loss of other profitable opportunities that, unlike Guo’s work, would not have compromised Strategic Vision’s political principles and business purpose; and by the damage to its reputation caused by being associated with a person who is now increasingly recognized as a Chinese dissident-hunter, rather than a dissident.