Self-exiled Chinese businessman’s chief of staff pleads guilty weeks before trial

NEW YORK — The chief of staff of a Chinese businessman wanted by the Chinese government pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy charges, weeks before her boss goes on trial in New York in a $1 billion fraud case.

Yvette Wang entered the plea in Manhattan federal court three weeks before she was set to stand trial with Guo Wengui.

Guo has pleaded not guilty to defrauding hundreds of thousands of followers in the US and around the world out of more than $1 billion.

When sentenced on September 10, Wang faces a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Without the plea, she could have faced life in prison if convicted.

Wang, 45, spoke only English during her plea proceedings and dangled the earphones given to her by an interpreter under her ears as she described her crimes. She wore prison garb and wore leg shackles throughout the procedure.

She admitted that from 2018 through March 2023, she conspired with Guo and others to commit wire fraud and money laundering by providing false information to induce victims to send money through entities and organizations, including Guo’s media company, GTV Media Group Inc., and its so-called Himalaya. Farm Alliance and the Himalaya Exchange, in exchange for shares or cryptocurrency.

Prosecutors say hundreds of thousands of investors were convinced to invest more than $1 billion in entities Guo controlled.

According to a charging document, Wang authorized a $100 million wire transfer from GTV’s parent company, Saraca Media Group Inc., on June 5, 2020. to a risky hedge fund for the benefit of Saraca and its ultimate beneficiary, Guo’s son. . Prosecutors said the $100 million consisted of investor funds obtained through fraudulent claims.

During her plea, Wang said she “knew what I did was wrong.”

She added: “I take full responsibility and I am deeply sorry for my actions, Your Honor.”

Guo was once considered one of the richest people in China. In 2014, he left during an anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people close to Guo, including a top intelligence official.

Since then, he has been highly wanted by that country’s government, which is relying on the U.S. for protection as Chinese authorities accuse him of rape, kidnapping, bribery and other crimes. He has long argued that these claims were false, saying they were intended to punish him for publicly calling out corruption there and criticizing key Communist Party figures.

While living as a fugitive in New York, he became an outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party and developed a close relationship with Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former political strategist. Guo and Bannon announced in 2020 the creation of a joint initiative that they said was aimed at overthrowing the Chinese government