Guo Wengui, Steve Bannon Launch Investigation Fund
Billionaire fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui and President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon gave a press conference announcing the establishment of a foundation that will investigate the disappearance or death of high-profile Chinese investors. The announcement followed Guo’s claims that the death of HNA’s former chairman Wang Jian, who fell from a wall in France this July, was potentially premeditated.
Speaking through interpreters, Guo said he had commissioned an inquiry into Wang’s fatal fall, which he said revealed “suspect elements” — contrary to the findings of French police.
His investigators made six visits to the French medieval village of Bonnieux, uncovered anomalies and pointed to suspicious behaviour among the bodyguards allegedly accompanying Wang at the time, Guo alleged.
Guo accused them of giving Wang facial acupuncture as he lay injured from the fall and of refusing other medical assistance.
The businessman claimed that Wang was killed because “he knew too much” about ties between HNA and the Chinese secret services, to which he attributed its spectacular overseas growth and doubts surrounding its true ownership. [Source]
At the Wall Street Journal, Cezary Podkul and Brian Spegele provide further details on the fund:
President Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon is teaming up with one of the Chinese government’s fiercest critics on a $100 million effort to investigate what they view as abuses of power by President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party.
Mr. Bannon unveiled the effort in a lengthy press conference Tuesday alongside exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, who said he would provide the funding for the so-called “Rule of Law Fund” to investigate deaths and disappearances of Chinese executives, politicians and other public figures.
Mr. Bannon said he would volunteer to serve as the fund’s chairman and oversee its operations, which he said would include hiring a professional staff. Details weren’t provided of how the new organization would operate, what cases it would pursue, or how Mr. Guo would pay for the initiative. Both men said the Trump administration wasn’t involved in the effort.
Bannon and Guo’s press conference coincided with reports that a Hong Kong court had frozen an additional $1.1 billion of Guo’s assets. Nectar Gan and Matt Ho at the South China Morning Post have more:
A restraint order issued on October 23 includes prohibition of sales of 510 million shares – or 14.98 per cent – of Hong Kong-listed Haitong Securities “effectively controlled” by Guo under his alias Kwok Ho-wan through three offshore companies, the report said.
Haitong is among the top securities brokers in mainland China.
The latest development follows the revelation from a separate court case in August that Hong Kong police are investigating Guo over alleged conspiracy to launder more than HK$32 billion.
The report did not mention whether the new asset-freezing order was related to any investigation. It said the restraint order was awarded to government prosecutors under the city’s Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance.
Prominent mainland news outlet Caixin published reports last year about Guo’s acquisition of Haitong International shares in 2014 and 2015, which at its peak left him controlling over 1.4 billion shares, or 42.18 per cent, of the Hong Kong-listed broker. But the shares he controlled were substantially reduced after China’s market rout in 2015, according to Caixin. [Source]
In a series of YouTube videos streamed from his apartment in New York, Guo has lobbed allegations that the family of then anti-corruption czar and now Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan are secret shareholders of HNA, and holds power over other major HNA shareholders. HNA filed a defamation suit against Guo last June.
Read more about Guo’s ongoing allegations, via CDT.