China court sentences fugitive tycoon’s staff to prison

AP

BEIJING (AP) — A court in northern China on Friday sentenced three employees working for fugitive real estate billionaire Guo Wengui, who has been locked in a high-stakes political feud with the ruling Communist Party.

The Dalian Xigang People’s Court announced prison terms of less than three years for the employees who prosecutors said were ordered by Guo to falsify financial documents to obtain loans from a state bank. Guo’s development firm Beijing Pangu Investment Co. was also fined $36 million.

The case did not name Guo as a defendant but Chinese authorities have been ramping up pressure against the fugitive tycoon, who has vowed to expose sensitive information concerning top party officials unless the government frees his employees and family members held in China.

The Dalian case amounted to the first criminal proceedings against Guo’s businesses since China filed a request in April with Interpol for a global “red notice” seeking his arrest. Chinese authorities have accused Guo indirectly of a litany of alleged crimes, including conspiring with a top intelligence official to blackmail a Beijing city official who had blocked a Pangu development project.

Guo, who also goes by the name Miles Kwok, fled China and now lives in a $68 million apartment overlooking New York’s Central Park. He’s also a member of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago resort.

He has cultivated a vast social media following and has levelled sensational, although largely unverified, accusations against his enemies, ranging from top officials heading the party’s anti-corruption watchdog agency to journalists who have investigated him and overseas Chinese who he says are part of a Chinese intelligence spy network.

It’s unclear whether Guo would continue his daily stream of disclosures on YouTube and Twitter given the resolution of the court case. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the sentences, or under what conditions he would consider his feud with the party settled.

In a report about the Dalian case, the official Xinhua News Agency said that investigators suspect other Guo-related businesses of bribery, embezzlement, illegal detention and forced transactions, suggesting that the government holds other evidence against Guo and could prosecute additional cases against his companies.

The verdict in Dalian came a day before Guo was scheduled to conduct a live interview with a New York-based Chinese-language media company, which he had earlier promised would contain more explosive revelations.

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