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Guo Wengui

Hong Kong police investigating fugitive Chinese tycoon Guo Wengui over alleged HK$32 billion money laundering conspiracy, court papers reveal

Details of inquiry contained in judicial challenge by company owned by tycoon’s daughter, which is seeking to unfreeze bank accounts under investigation in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 3:30am

Hong Kong police are investigating the exiled Chinese fugitive tycoon Guo Wengui for an alleged conspiracy in which he and his accomplices, including his son and daughter, laundered more than HK$32 billion (US$4.1 billion) through various companies set up in the city, a court document has revealed.

Details of the investigation were made known in a judicial challenge by a company owned by Guo Mei, the property tycoon’s daughter, filed at the High Court on Tuesday, seeking to unfreeze bank accounts under investigation in the city.

Guo, who fled to the United States in 2015, was hit with an Interpol red notice last year that accused him of paying a 60 million yuan (US$8.7 million) bribe to China’s former state security vice-minister, Ma Jian.

Also known as Miles Kwok, Guo has since turned into a critic of some senior Chinese officials and faces defamation lawsuits as well as rape allegations in the US, where he is seeking political asylum.

This is the first time Guo has been revealed to be under investigation in Hong Kong, where his family members hold interests in various locally registered companies.

According to the writ filed in court, four bank accounts belonging to Anton Development Limited, solely owned and directed by Guo Mei, have been frozen since July 12, 2017, by DBS bank at the request of police.

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The tycoon was accused along with his daughter, his son Guo Qiang, an employee named Qu Guojiao and a man identified as Han Chunguang of involvement in a conspiracy in which they used their personal bank accounts – and those of Anton and Hong Kong International Funds Investments Limited, also owned by Guo Mei – to launder a total of HK$32.9 billion, believed to be proceeds of an indictable offence.

Qu, a manager of the two companies, was arrested on August 3 last year, and is now out on bail.

The frozen accounts contained at least HK$1.57 billion (US$200 million), according to the writ.

Anton said that since the day the funds were frozen, it had repeatedly approached the police through its lawyers offering to help with the investigation.

In particular, the writ said, the firm had explained to the authorities that some HK$744 million of the frozen HK$1.57 billion was a result of investment returns from an Abu Dhabi sovereign fund.

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But the police showed no intention of releasing all or part of the amount, in their last contact on June 8, the writ said.

By holding its assets indefinitely, the firm argued, the police commissioner, the defendant named in the court challenge, had violated its private rights to properties, protected by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

The move, Anton said, “interferes with the use or disposal of the property of an individual, which imposes criminal liability without prescribing any time limit for the expiry of such decision and, more importantly, any rights of the affected person … to apply to the court to vary or dismiss the decision”.

It was referring to the refusal by police to place Anton’s application before the court, an option the firm was seeking to gain access to the funds. Instead, the police opted to use their legal power to compel the bank directly to follow their request.

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Anton contended that the police were being “utterly unreasonable” and “unfair” since freezing the accounts without giving a time frame for their release would have an adverse effect on the company.

“All along, Anton has had no idea on what basis did the police continue with the freezing of the accounts, month after month,” the firm complained.

Anton is now asking the court to declare that the freezing of its funds was illegal, and to decide whether they should remain frozen.