U.S. authorities on Wednesday arrested and charged exiled Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui with conspiring to defraud his followers of more than $1 billion.
The Justice Department said that Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, diverted funds from thousands of followers who had been promised high returns on investments, and used those funds to pay for his own lavish lifestyle.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York accused Guo of “lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000 square foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari, and even two $36,000 mattresses, and financing a $37 million luxury yacht,” a department statement said.
Guo, 52, is charged with 11 criminal counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud and concealment of money laundering. His financier, Hong Kong-U.K. dual citizen King Min Je, is accused of helping in the fraud and has also been charged.
The Justice Department said it seized and is seeking the forfeiture of $634 million of Guo's alleged fraud proceeds from 21 bank accounts.
Guo is a prominent critic of the Chinese communist government. He has ties to Steve Bannon, an adviser to former U.S. President Donald Trump. He left China in 2014, and also faces criminal charges in that country but denies wrongdoing. He has lived in the United States since around 2015.
Guo was arrested on Wednesday morning in New York, while the financier Je remains at large, the Justice Department said.
Reuters reported that Guo pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan federal court Wednesday and was ordered detained without bail. Lawyers for Guo did not immediately respond to requests for comment, the news agency reported. His next court appearance is April 4.