(Bloomberg) -- The trial of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui began this week in New York, where he’s accused of swindling more than $1 billion from investors in a complex fraud scheme that netted him luxuries including a $26 million New Jersey mansion and a $37 million yacht.

Opening arguments could start this week, once a jury is selected.

The outspoken businessman, also known as Ho Wan Kwok or Miles Guo, will be tried before an anonymous jury that US Marshals will escort to and from the courthouse each day — an unusual move to protect the people who will decide a case that’s drawn intense interest. The government argues jurors need to be shielded from Guo and his supporters while Guo, a sharp critic of the Chinese government, says it’s the Chinese Community Party that poses the threat. 

Guo, who referred to himself as “Brother Seven” in online videos before his arrest in March 2023, is accused of tricking investors into handing over $1 billion for what they thought were promising investment opportunities in crypto, a social media platform and a farm loan program. 

He has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges and claims he never defrauded anyone, let alone fellow members of his “Chinese pro-democracy movement.” Guo has been held at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center since his arrest.

Guo’s attorneys declined to comment. In court filings, they have argued the government’s indictment is rife with factual errors and that Guo is innocent. 

According to prosecutors, Guo fled to the US in 2015 and settled in a $67.5 million penthouse in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on the Upper East Side. He built a strong online following criticizing the Chinese Communist Party, pitching investments to his supporters in the process.

Guo, who applied for asylum in the US in 2017, also forged ties to former president Donald Trump’s inner-circle. When former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon was arrested for fraud in 2020, he was on board Guo’s 150-foot “Lady May” yacht off the Connecticut coast.  

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Guo misled investors through a “cascade of deceit that spanned years” and involved sequential investment projects. In 2020, Guo, his financial adviser Kin Ming Je and former chief-of-staff Yvette Wang raised more than $400 million from 5,500 investors through an illegal private stock offering related to GTV Media Group — a news social media platform.  

Guo and his co-conspirators allegedly diverted $100 million from the stock offering and placed it in a high-risk hedge fund that, if successful, would have been a windfall for his son, according to court filings. The fund was managed by Kyle Bass, who was also the chair of a nonprofit Guo founded that criticized the CCP.  

The fund’s big bet that the Hong Kong dollar would collapse led to a $30 million loss, according to prosecutors. Creditors have attempted to claw back funds through Guo’s parallel bankruptcy proceedings.  

Guo also allegedly skimmed investor funds that were meant for a farm loan program, an exclusive members-only club and an initial coin offering. Guo boasted to his social media followers about the dizzying success of his crypto “ecosystem” the Himalaya Exchange, claiming its cryptocurrencies were backed by gold. 

Prosecutors allege tens of millions of dollars was also wired to Guo relatives and spent on luxury purchases, including a 50,000-square foot mansion in New Jersey, a $4.4 million custom Bugatti and Chinese and Persian rugs. 

Wang, 45, pleaded guilty on May 3 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and faces more than a decade in prison. Je is still at large.

The case is US v. Ho Wan Kwok, 23-cr-00118, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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