The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil enforcement action against hotel and casino executive Steve Wynn that would force him to register as a foreign agent working on behalf of the Chinese government.
What Happened: Wynn, the former CEO of Wynn Resorts WYNN, was accused by the DOJ of violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) during the summer of 2017 when he allegedly contacted then-President Donald Trump and members of the White House and National Security Council regarding a Chinese business executive who sought asylum in the U.S.
The DOJ declined to publicly identify the individual, but Axios identified him as Guo Wengui, a critic of China’s government and a friend of former White House strategist Steve Bannon.
The DOJ said Wynn, who is a leading donor to Republican candidates, passed along a request from Beijing to either cancel Guo’s visa or have him expelled. The DOJ complaint noted Wynn’s company owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region of China, and alleged Wynn acted on behalf of Beijing to maintain his business interests in Macau.
The DOJ added that Wynn declined a request to voluntarily register under FARA guidelines.
“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 G. Olsen of the department’s National Security Division in a press statement. “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.”
What Else Happened: Wynn's attorneys issued a statement vehemently denying the DOJ’s claims.
“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act," said his lawyers, Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig of the firm Steptoe & Johnson. "We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”
Another leading Republican fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, along with Hawaiian businesswoman Nickie Lum Davis, pleaded guilty in 2020 to FARA violations for working on Beijing’s behalf to lobby the Trump administration regarding Guo. Trump pardoned Broidy shortly before leaving office and Davis is seeking to void her guilty plea with the complaint that she was coerced by the DOJ into admitting guilt.
Photo: Steve Wynn (right) with Stephen A. Wynn Foundation Director Steve Dez. Photo courtesy University of Iowa Center for Advancement/Flickr Creative Commons
© 2024 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.