The US Justice Department has sued Las Vegas and Macau casino mogul Steve Wynn to force him to register officially as an agent for the Chinese government.
Mr Wynn, the founder and former chief executive of Wynn Resorts, acted on behalf of Beijing in 2017 when he met Donald Trump, who was US president at the time, and senior administration officials in a Chinese effort to gain custody over exiled tycoon Guo Wengui, the department said.
Mr Guo was wanted in China for financial fraud and other allegations, but was close to Mr Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon, supporting Mr Bannon’s media business and other activities.
Mr Guo had asked for political asylum in the US.
The Justice Department said that in June and August 2017, Mr Wynn contacted Mr Trump and had dinner with the president to convey Beijing’s request that the US cancel Mr Guo’s visa or have him otherwise removed from the country.
Mr Wynn “engaged in these efforts at the request of Sun Lijun, then-vice minister of the MPS,” the Justice Department said, referring to China’s Ministry of Public Security.
Besides raising it with Mr Trump, Mr Wynn, who was a former Republican Party finance chairman, also had discussions with senior White House and National Security Council officials “about organising a meeting with Sun and other PRC government officials” on the issue, it said.
At the time, Mr Wynn’s company owned and operated three casinos in Macau, Asia’s largest gambling destination.
The Justice Department alleges that Mr Wynn carried out Mr Sun’s requests “out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau”.
It says that Mr Wynn was advised that he had to register as a lobbyist for China under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, but refused to do so.
Mr Wynn was enlisted in the lobbying effort partly by another wealthy US businessman and former top Republican fundraiser, Elliott Broidy.
In 2020, Mr Broidy, a friend of Mr Trump, pleaded guilty to breaching the Foreign Agents Registration Act and forfeited $6.6 million in a plea deal.
Mr Wynn was forced to step down as chief executive of Wynn Resorts in 2018 amid sexual misconduct allegations.
In September, three companies owned by Mr Guo were ordered by the US Securities and Exchange Commission to pay $539 million in penalties to settle charges over illegal cryptocurrency sales.