Stephen K. Bannon, once President Trump’s top political adviser, struck up a business relationship with a mysterious and wanted Chinese billionaire just after his White House job ended.Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, right, and Guo Wengui last month at a news conference in New York. Credit... Carlo Allegri/Reuters
Almost immediately after ending his White House employment, Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief strategist to President Trump, forged a lucrative financial relationship with a mysterious Chinese billionaire who was sought by Beijing for extradition from the United States.
China’s government had already accused Guo Wengui, a real estate magnate also known as Miles Kwok, of money laundering, bribery and rape when he and Mr. Bannon developed a mutually beneficial relationship that began with a $150,000 loan to Mr. Trump’s onetime confidant, according to a memo written in May 2019 and obtained by The New York Times.
It escalated to a yearlong million-dollar contract, for which Mr. Bannon promised to introduce executives of Guo Media to “media personalities,” according to the news outlet Axios.
Mr. Guo has denied accusations of lawbreaking and says Beijing’s extradition request is retaliation for his outspoken criticism of Chinese corruption. He has forged relationships with China hard-liners like Mr. Bannon in the United States, has a membership to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., and is seeking asylum while in the United States staying at his palatial apartment overlooking Central Park.
Mr. Bannon, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on his relationship with Mr. Guo. A spokesman for Mr. Guo and a person close to Mr. Bannon said the initial loan to Mr. Bannon related to a film project critical of the Chinese Communist Party. According to the memo, it was repaid last year by being taken out of a portion of Mr. Bannon’s contract with Guo Media.
Aides to both men have described their relationship as grounded in a mutual disdain for the Chinese Communist Party.
The loan reveals a financial relationship that began when Mr. Guo’s whereabouts was a focus of Chinese officials, who had put out notices for his arrest through Interpol.
Mr. Bannon, who left the White House in August 2017, has been focused on issues related to China for years, and Mr. Guo’s conflict with the Chinese government was on his radar while he was working for Mr. Trump, according to a person close to him.
Daniel Podhaskie, an attorney for Mr. Guo, said Mr. Bannon and Mr. Guo first met in October 2017, after an appearance by Mr. Guo at the Hudson Institute, a conservative research organization, was canceled.
He said Mr. Guo then introduced Mr. Bannon to the media group associated with Mr. Guo. Mr. Podhaskie told Axios that Mr. Guo was “merely the face” of Guo Media.
Mr. Bannon is said to have finished his contract and is no longer being paid by Guo Media.
But Mr. Bannon broadcast a radio show critical of the Chinese Communist Party from Mr. Guo’s apartment in Manhattan. The show does not air in the United States but has been broadcast into China, a person close to Mr. Bannon said.
That is in keeping with other projects that Mr. Bannon has taken on since his widely publicized falling out with Mr. Trump. Broadcasting from Washington, Mr. Bannon leads a radio show defending Mr. Trump in his impeachment battle called the “War Room.”
He has also helped raise money to privately build part of the wall that Mr. Trump wants along the border with Mexico. And he has been working on the Tibetan independence movement and in support of Muslim Uighurs who face persecution in China.