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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Witness claims Guo Wengui flaunted his wealth to supporters: ‘He’s just a liar’

Guo founded GTV with Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon, one of several investment projects prosecutors claim Guo used to bilk his followers out of more than $1 billion.

MANHATTAN (CN) — The list of Guo Wengui’s purported fraud victims continues to grow as the trial of the exiled Chinese businessman extends into its third week of testimony.

Minran Ru, a New Jersey resident who was born in China and moved to the United States more than two decades ago, said Guo’s schemes cost her $15,000.

“He’s just a liar,” Ru said on the witness stand Thursday. “He’s very good at acting and cheating.”

Guo — also known as Miles Guo and Ho Wan Kwok — is accused of defrauding his own supporters of over $1 billion through a series of phony investment projects all related to his relentless advocacy against the Chinese Communist Party. One of those projects was GTV, a video sharing website he founded with MAGA-affiliated media mogul Steve Bannon.

Guo cultivated his loyal following targeting people like Ru, who were enamored with Guo’s mission to take down the CCP. Ru, who was living in the U.S. at the time, told the court that she became a supporter of Guo’s movement in 2020 after her ill parents were mistreated by Chinese healthcare.

Ru said that she started watching videos of Guo speak on YouTube a few times per week. Eventually, she was watching him everyday. 

In those videos, Ru said that Guo flaunted his wealth by boasting about the houses he lived in, the clothes he wore and the food he ate. Ru testified that Guo would say “his strawberries were $5, $10 each” and that he dined on seafood that was “almost extinct.”

“He said he was rich, very rich, a billionaire,” Ru said.

According to Ru, Guo sold his followers on the idea of getting rich like him by investing in GTV, promising exorbitant returns of up to 100 times. Ru said that she tried to buy $14,000 worth of GTV shares in 2020 and even started volunteering for one of Guo’s “farms,” online groups run by Guo to pool investor money.

But like other witnesses who testified earlier in the trial, Ru said Guo took her money and never delivered the GTV stocks he had promised.

Still, Ru remained an active member of Guo’s movement, dumping money into more of his projects like G CLUBS, Guo’s membership program for those in his anti-communist movement the New China Federation.

When she finally wanted out, Ru said she was scared to be ostracized from her group and be left empty handed if she asked for her money back.

“I was afraid [that] I would be expelled from the farm and I would get nothing,” Ru said. “They did this a lot.”

Corroborating other witness testimony, Ru claimed that whenever an investor would ask Guo for a refund, he would label them as “CCP spies” and boot them from the movement. Sometimes, they would even be personally targeted via online harassment or in-person protests, according to past testimony.

Still, Ru asked for a refund of her $10,000 G CLUBS investment. She said she wrote daily emails to G CLUBS for about a year asking about the status of her money.

“Nothing happened,” Ru said. 

As Guo ran into regulatory trouble in the U.S., Ru said she slowly slipped away from the grasp of his movement and became skeptical of his anti-CCP advocacy. She suggested that Guo was simply bilking more money from supporters by claiming that CCP spies were numerous and out to get him, a claim Ru called “ridiculous” on Thursday.

Still a fervent critic of the CCP herself, Ru said that there was no excuse for Guo to defraud his followers, even if there was some truth to his fearmongering.

“You cannot use the CCP to do something illegal,” she said.

Ru was lively and animated on the witness stand, even raising her voice at Guo’s lawyers as they tried to corner her on cross-examination. 

It was a stark contrast from the prior witness, banker Haitham Khaled, who monotonously testified for the past several days about Guo’s efforts to skirt federal oversight as he moved cash from account to account.

Cooperating under a non-prosecution agreement, Khaled told the court that he was hired to be Guo’s head of banking relations and strategy in 2020. Much of his testimony revolved around recorded phone calls he had with Guo, who was heard angrily lamenting U.S. banking regulations when he tried to move millions in investor cash from G CLUBS to a new foundation.

In an audio recording of a 2021 phone call played to the court, Khaled explained to Guo the steps it would take to make a transaction like that possible. Guo could be heard on the call becoming increasingly enraged as Khaled spoke, eventually exploding at the banker.

“This is bullshit,” Guo yelled, his voice billowing over courtroom speakers. “You must [make] the money go to the foundation, Haitham, immediately! I am not a stupid guy.”

Khaled said the eruptive phone call came after several conversations he had with Guo’s inner circle, where he clearly outlined the risks of making this transaction work.

“It’s very hard and very risky, there is jail,” Khaled said in a 2021 call with Guo’s son, Mileson, who chuckled at the suggestion.

Guo is facing criminal counts of racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering, among other charges. If convicted, he could be sentenced to more than 200 years in prison.

He could also be deported to China, where he is wanted on accusations of rape, kidnapping and bribery.

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Categories / Criminal, International, Trials

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