The financier famed for bankrolling some of Steve Bannon’s best-known ventures, as well as the far-right strategist’s jet-setting lifestyle, is in deep trouble for steering a $28 million yacht—the same boat where federal agents arrested Bannon in 2020—out of American waters.
A New York judge slapped Guo Wengui, who also uses the aliases Kwok Ho Wan and Miles Guo, with $134 million in contempt of court fines on Wednesday for violating multiple restraining orders barring him from selling or relocating the boat or any other property he controls. The high price tag results from nearly a year of the fugitive Chinese national defying the court’s order that he return the craft to a U.S. port—an order that carried a daily forfeiture of $500,000.
Court documents filed in late January showed the 151-foot-long pleasure vessel blithely plying the western Mediterranean. Now, Guo has only until Monday to come up with the funds. His attorneys at BakerHostetler—a firm with close ties to the Republican National Committee—declined to comment for this story. However, in an appeal of the decision filed late Thursday, Guo’s lawyers lambasted the charges levied as “disproportionate, excessive, unauthorized by law, an abuse of discretion, and in violation of Defendant-Appellant’s constitutional rights.”
The punishing penalties result from a case unrelated to Bannon’s maritime arrest a year and a half ago for allegedly looting a nonprofit, a charge for which he never faced prosecution thanks to a last-minute pardon from outgoing President Donald Trump.
Rather, the fines are connected to a separate fight over Guo’s enigmatic yet ostentatious wealth. Nearly five years ago, an affiliate of the Hong Kong-based investment firm Pacific Alliance Group brought suit against Guo, alleging his companies had failed to repay tens of millions of dollars in loans made between 2008 and 2009 or deliver on promised property transactions. The opulent boat has emerged as a key asset in that fight over the allegedly unpaid tab.
Guo, a Shandong-born construction magnate, absconded from the Chinese mainland in 2014, fleeing charges ranging from corruption and money-laundering to rape (all of which he has denied). Since 2017, he has lived in luxury, setting up residence in a $68 million Central Park penthouse and underwriting numerous right-wing projects, from nonprofits with Bannon to dodgy media operations to bogus COVID-19 studies to would-be Twitter competitor GETTR. All the while, he has sought refugee status and attacked figures in both the Communist Chinese regime and in the dissident diaspora online.
The yacht imbroglio is hardly the first time Guo’s activities have run afoul of U.S. authorities. In September 2021, his companies agreed to pay $500 million in Security and Exchange Commission fines for running a cryptocurrency scheme in violation of federal regulations.