Steve Bannon’s financier has been ordered by a New York judge to pay $134 million in contempt of court fines for intentionally moving his yacht out of US waters to avoid debt collection, after Bannon was arrested on the same boat on fraud charges in 2020.
According to the ruling issued in New York Supreme Court Wednesday, Chinese billionaire and Bannon colleague Guo Wengui, currently a fugitive from the federal government with a reported net worth of $1.5 billion, hid billions in assets on the $28million superboat and purposely piloted the craft outside US jurisdiction to avoid making payments on a filched loan.
By moving the boat, named The Lady May, Guo violated a previous order that he return the craft to a US port, said Supreme Court Justice Barry Ostrager -a violation that warranted a daily fine of $500,000.
Multiple restraining orders had barred Guo, 51, who has also been exiled by his home country of China for crimes including rape and criticizing its government as corrupt, from relocating or selling the boat or any of his other assets – a stipulation he ignored by hiding it in the Bahamas, the court said.
Steve Bannon financier Guo Wengui was ordered Wednesday to pay contempt of court fines for moving his yacht out of US waters to avoid paying a debt from more than two decades ago
‘Those proceedings established, among other things, that [Guo] exercised dominion and control over a yacht called the Lady May and resulted in a series of orders restraining [Guo] and/or the registered owners of the yacht called Lady May from removing the Lady May from the Court’s jurisdiction,’ Ostrager said.
However, ‘[Guo] and his cohorts made arrangement for the Lady May to sail to Florida in early October 2020 and, thereafter, to the Bahamas,’ the court filing continues, adding that a subsequent judgement ordered Guo to return the yacht to US waters or face a fine of $500,000 a day.
The dispute stems from a $30 million loan Guo received from a private equity firm in 2008 and never repaid, that has since ballooned to more than $116 million in interest over the past 24 years.
According to the ruling, Chinese billionaire and Bannon colleague Guo Wengui (left), a fugitive from the federal government, hid billions in assets on the $28million superboat and purposely piloted the craft outside US jurisdiction to avoid making payments on a filched loan
Guo’s lavish yacht, The Lady May, has since emerged as a key asset in the five-year-old case. Bannon was arrested on the boat in August 2020 for unrelated federal fraud charges
In 2017, an affiliate of the Hong Kong-based firm, the Pacific Alliance Group, filed suit against Guo, alleging his companies failed to repay the loans or deliver on promised property transactions. Guo’s lavish yacht has since emerged as a key asset in the nearly five-year-old case.
The lawsuit is unrelated to Bannon’s August 2020 arrest by federal agents, after allegedly defrauding and stealing from a nonprofit, a charge for which he was pardoned by then-President Donald Trump, in one of the head of state’s last moves before leaving office.
Guo is required to pay the sum within five business days, or risk arrest, according to the court.
Bannon had been staying on the self-styled Chinese dissident’s $28 million vessel, Lady May, pictured, for weeks before his arrest in August 2020 for allegedly defrauding his Mexico border wall charity of $25 million. He was then pardoned by then-President Donald Trump
‘The Court has the authority to hold [Guo] in civil contempt … and ‘to punish [him], by fine and imprisonment,’ the judge wrote in the ruling.
In court documents, Guo has remained adamant that he doesn’t own the yacht.
Since the suit was filed, the Chinese construction magnate has been in self-imposed exile from his home in New York City, where he owns a US$82 million apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, overlooking Central Park, where he has continued to try to bring attention to corruption in the Chinese political system.
In November 2018, Guo put the apartment up for sale for $67 million.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, Guo announced his plans to flee the US – where he was denied political asylum – on a livestream where he reportedly talked about relocating to Japan or possibly the UK.
Following the ruling Wednesday, Guo announced his plans to flee the US on a livestream where he reportedly talked about relocating to Japan or possibly the UK
The mogul will likely not return to China, where he is accused of an array of crimes including rape. Guo has denied the accusations, which he claims are linked to his criticism of China’s Communist Party.
Bannon was arrested on the Lady May in 2020. He was then charged with fraud in relation to the ‘We Build The Wall’ scheme, a privately-funded campaign to construct fencing along stretches of land near the US-Mexico border.
Bannon was later pardoned by Trump, who he worked for as a chief strategist for the first six months of the then president’s term.
Bannon previously served on the board of a nonprofit, the Rule of Law Society, that has ties to Guo. The New York Times reported that the pair began working together shortly after Bannon was ousted from the White House by then-chief of staff John Kelly, with the Chinese businessman funding many of Bannon’s ventures.
‘Those proceedings established, among other things, that [Guo] exercised dominion and control over a yacht called the Lady May and resulted in a series of orders restraining [Guo] and/or the registered owners of the yacht called Lady May from removing the Lady May from the Court’s jurisdiction,’ NY Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager wrote in Wednesday’s ruling
It currently is not clear if Guo himself has any relationship with Trump – however, it was reported by the Times that Guo was once a member at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida.
It was reported in 2017 by The Wall Street Journal that Trump, while president, decided against extraditing Guo to China after learning of his membership at the club.
Guo, a former member of China’s Communist Party, made headlines in June 2020 when he teamed up with Bannon to fly a fleet of propeller planes carrying banners congratulating the ‘Federal State of New China’ over New York City.
A YouTube video posted in August of that year showed Bannon with a slight sunburn, popped collar, and cigar in hand, standing next to Guo in one of the yacht’s glitzy rooms, railing against the Chinese government.
Later that month Bannon was arrested aboard the boat on charges he pocketed donations to a crowd-funded US-Mexico border wall fundraiser; a scheme unrelated to his dealings with Guo.
At some point Guo had also joined Mar-a-Lago where he was photographed by DailyMail.com just after Christmas 2018.
He has divided opinions even among his fellow dissidents – some adoringly printing his slogans on t-shirts, and others claiming he is in fact a Chinese government spy.
Delaware-registered company Saraca Media Group Inc offers GNews and GTV apps in Apple’s App Store. It also owns Guo Media; that hired Bannon for ‘strategic consulting services’ related to his investigation into the Chinese Communist Party. Under that year-long contract, Bannon received $1million from an unidentified source, WSJ reported
The enigmatic businessman is believed to have made his fortune in real estate, and says he came from humble beginnings with vivid descriptions of foraging twigs for firewood in a rural Chinese province during the country’s brutal 1970s Cultural Revolution.
Guo, who now owns lavish apartments in major cities, says he made his first property deal age 25, and began building his real estate empire in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou where he constructed the city’s then-tallest building, the Yuda International Trade Center.
As well as his $28 million yacht, he acquired a 9,000-square-foot apartment overlooking Central Park on the 18th-floor of the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on New York’s Fifth Avenue and similarly luxurious pads in London and Hong Kong.