US sues casino mogul Steve Wynn to compel him to register as agent of China

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<span>Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP</span>
Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP

The US Department of Justice on Tuesday sued Steve Wynn, the billionaire former casino mogul and senior Republican fund raiser, to compel him to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as an agent of China.

The department said Wynn, 80, had contacted then-US president Donald Trump and members of his Republican administration in 2017 to convey China’s request to cancel the visa of or otherwise remove a Chinese businessperson who had sought political asylum in the United States.

In a statement the Department of Justice said it was seeking to compel Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara) as the agent of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and a senior official of the PRC’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

“The filing of this suit – the first affirmative civil lawsuit under Fara in more than three decades – demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” said assistant attorney general Matthew Olsen of the justice department’s national security division. “Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, Fara gives the American people a right to know.”

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According to the complaint, in June and August 2017 Wynn contacted Trump and members of his administration to “convey the PRC’s request to cancel the visa or otherwise remove from the United States a Chinese businessperson who left China in 2014, was later charged with corruption by the PRC and sought political asylum in the United States”.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that the person was Chinese businessman Guo Wengui, who has been accused by the Chinese authorities of a range of criminal offenses including bribery and sexual assault, charges he has denied. Guo has said he is the subject of a witch hunt after accusing senior PRC figures of having corrupt ties with China’s business leaders.

The complaint alleges that Wynn engaged in these efforts at the request of Sun Lijun, then-vice minister of the MPS. “Wynn conveyed the request directly to the then-president over dinner and by phone, and he had multiple discussions with the then-president and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council about organizing a meeting with Sun and other PRC government officials,” according to the justice department.

Wynn’s company owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region in the PRC and the department alleges that “Wynn acted at the request of the PRC out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau”.

Wynn’s lawyers denied the charges.

“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of Fara and look forward to proving our case in court,” said a statement from his attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig.

In 2018, Wynn resigned as finance chair of the Republican National Committee, a day after it was reported that he faced multiple of allegations of sexual misconduct.

Days later he resigned from his luxury casino and hotel company, Wynn Resorts. He denied the allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

In 2020, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Congress, pleaded guilty of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, accepting millions of dollars to lobby the Trump administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests. Broidy admitted to working with Chinese officials attempting to return Guo to his home country.

The complaint alleges Wynn was drawn into the lobbying effort by Broidy. Broidy was later pardoned by Trump.

Agencies contributed reporting.