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Guo Wengui

Beijing official sues fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui for US$10 million over video claims of sexual favours

Huang Yan, vice minister of housing and urban-rural development, accused Guo of spreading false information to hurt her reputation by posting the video

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 6:23am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 July, 2017, 7:52am

A Beijing government official is suing China’s fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui in New York for US$10 million for defamation, citing allegations of sexual favours and graft, which Guo made against her in a public YouTube video.

Huang Yan, vice minister of housing and urban-rural development, accused Guo of deliberately spreading false information to damage her reputation by posting the video in May. The complaint was filed with New York State’s Supreme Court by Kevin Tung of the law firm Kevin Kerveng Tung PC, the same attorney who filed complaints on behalf of other Chinese entities suing Guo in New York.

According to the complaint, Guo alleges falsely that Huang secured approvals for Beijing real estate developers from former Beijing Vice Mayor Liu Zhihua in exchange for sexual favours, and then received property assets from the developers who benefitted.

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By posting the video, “Guo has falsely claimed that plaintiff Huang had engaged in various nefarious actions, including, but not limited to: sex scandals and corruption”, the complaint says.

“These spoken statements have been heard by hundreds of thousands of viewers. Defendant Guo published and disseminated the video on YouTube maliciously for the sole purpose of impugning plaintiff Huang’s reputation and standing and casting aspersions upon plaintiff Huang.”

The YouTube video is no longer available publicly.

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A lawyer from a firm defending Guo in another US case suggested Huang’s complaint is part of an effort by Beijing to silence Guo. The Chinese government made a request to Interpol in April to issue a global “red notice” for his arrest.

Tung “will have to show that that’s untruthful and they’ll have to produce witnesses and documents and evidence supporting that in order to prove a defamation claim”, said Josh Schiller, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, the firm defending Guo in case filed by Tung on behalf of nine plaintiffs.

Those parties are suing Guo for $50 million in a bid to claim the assets of a company Guo controls in China awarded to them by a Beijing court. The plaintiffs in that case allege that Guo illegally transferred those assets to a US company that Guo also controls.

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“We suspect, with this ongoing, consistent, repeated filing of suits – particularly defamation suits by different parties that are obviously connected to the [Chinese government] – that the People’s Republic of China doesn’t want these statements to be made by Mr. Kwok,” Schiller said. “They are either a partner or behind in some way these efforts to use the defamation laws to suppress his speech.”

Speaking in an interview with the South China Morning Post, Schiller used a variation of Guo’s surname. “Miles Kwok” is one of eight names used for Guo in the affidavit and other related legal documents filed in New York.

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On June 15, Chinese conglomerate HNA Group said it filed a defamation lawsuit in New York against Guo over allegations in an interview and on Twitter that HNA had benefited from patronage by Chinese politicians. HNA denied Guo’s claims that senior government officials holding shares in the firm had perpetrated used “irregular” channels to purchase of assets overseas.

Schiller said Friday that Guo hadn’t yet been served with the HNA complaint.

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A property developer, Guo has close ties to former state security vice-minister Ma Jian, who is under investigation for corruption and is suspected of giving Ma 60 million yuan (HK$69.2 million) in bribes. Guo has been living in self-imposed exile in his luxury New York penthouse overlooking Central Park.

Guo regularly takes to social media to level allegations of bribery and conspiracy against high-profile individuals in China, including President Xi Jinping’s top anti-corruption official Wang Qishan, usually through self-made videos.