It’s been nearly three weeks since Yanping “Yvette” Wang was arrested and charged with helping her boss—exiled Chinese mogul Guo Wengui—orchestrate a $1 billion international fraud scheme. Her attorneys are still struggling to get her out of jail. Wang, according to her lawyers, has a mysterious benefactor willing to assist in that effort. A “very well-known individual” has offered to put up a house he owns as collateral to help Wang post bond, attorney Alex Lipman said at a March 22 hearing in New York. Lipman didn’t name this supporter, but his description of that person suggests it is Steve Bannon, the former strategist for Donald Trump.
The identity of this benefactor is important because a federal prosecutor said in a recent court hearing that this unnamed person “is very involved” in the fraud scheme Guo allegedly ran. Bannon is not mentioned in any of the federal charging documents in the Guo case, and no evidence has emerged showing that Bannon knew about the alleged diversion of investor funds central to the accusations against Guo. But Mother Jones has reported that federal agents have asked witnesses in the case about Bannon’s work with Guo.
Bannon and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment. Lipman declined to comment.
Wang, who functioned as Guo’s top assistant, appears to have executed many of his financial transactions, including some that were part of the alleged fraud scheme. Prosecutors, who have indicated they received information from multiple former Guo underlings, are likely interested in striking a cooperation deal with Wang.
A judge set bail at $5 million for Wang. In a court appearance on March 22, her attorneys argued that the government had unreasonably objected to various people they have proposed who could act as cosigners or put up collateral to help Wang secure the bond. She has been held in jail since her arrest and will remain there until her trial if she is unable to post bail. Lipman complained that prosecutors have rejected all the potential cosigners on the grounds they are each linked to Guo, who leads what he calls a “whistleblower movement” opposed to the Chinese Communist Party. Wang is a Chinese immigrant whose “only friends are people who are in this circle,” Lipman said.
Lipman said he did find one person who is “very well known” and is “not Chinese,” who agreed to put up a property worth $2.5 million to secure Wang’s bond. But prosecutors “rejected him because they said he was a convicted felon,” Lipman told the court at the hearing.
In response, assistant US Attorney Julia Murray said that the government’s concerns went beyond this person’s criminal record. The “prominent individual” supposedly offering to put up property “is very involved in the fraud in this case,” she said. “And this is a billion dollar fraud that was spearheaded by…Guo. The individual who was going to pledge the property has been involved in several organizations that are alleged to be instrumentalities of the fraud.” (Prosecutors say they are required to ensure that people helping defendants to make bail are financially responsible.)
In 2019, Bannon helped Guo launch two nonprofit organizations that were purportedly intended to expose corruption in China. Prosecutors have said Guo used those groups to win the loyalty of anti-CCP Chinese emigres who he then defrauded with scam investment offers. Bannon was also on the board of directors of GTV, a media company Guo launched in 2020, which prosecutors say was a central part of Guo’s allegedly fraudulent investment scheme.
Bannon was convicted last year of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House’s January 6 committee. His sentencing is on hold while he appeals. He was also charged last year by New York state prosecutors for allegedly helping to defraud an unrelated charity. Bannon had previously faced federal fraud charges related to that same charity and was arrested in 2020 aboard Guo’s yacht. Trump, on his final day in office, pardoned Bannon on the federal charges before any trial occurred.
Wang’s lawyers are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday to discuss her bail status. But prosecutors say she is a major flight risk, given her limited ties in the United States and the long sentence she could face if convicted. In a court filing last week, the government noted that investigators found $138,000 in cash in a safe in Wang’s apartment. She also had access to $34 million in bank accounts linked to Guo companies, they said, as well as a passport from the tiny Pacific state of Vanuatu, which sells citizenship. Such passports until recently allowed visa-free travel in the European Union and United Kingdom.
Guo also remains incarcerated. Prosecutors say he, too, would be a major flight risk if he were granted bail.