Escalating efforts to repatriate one of the ruling Communist Party’s most wanted exiles, Chinese police have opened an investigation on a new allegation, rape, against New York-based billionaire Guo Wengui, who has been releasing what he calls official secrets ahead of a pivotal party leadership conference.
Two Chinese officials with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that police are requesting a second Interpol arrest notice for Guo, 50, for the alleged sexual assault of a 28-year-old former personal assistant.
Guo and his representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Sprawling case against Guo
The rape allegation represents a new element in the sprawling case that Chinese prosecutors are building against the real estate tycoon, who is being investigated for at least 19 major criminal cases. Allegations against him include bribing a top Chinese intelligence official, kidnapping, fraud and money laundering.
The Associated Press reviewed documents related to the rape investigation and confirmed their contents with Chinese official sources in Beijing, who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. The Chinese officials’ disclosures to the AP — an unusual move given the political sensitivity of Guo’s case in China — underscores Beijing’s urgent effort to not only bring a fugitive to heel on criminal charges but also silence a potent irritant in the run-up to a key Communist Party congress during which political stability and the stifling of any challenges to the party head, President Xi Jinping, are paramount.
Although the United States does not have an extradition agreement with China, Beijing hopes that a mounting body of evidence could sway the U.S. government against extending the exiled businessman’s visa, which is believed to expire in October, the Chinese officials said.
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials have discussed the allegations against Guo, according to a third person with direct knowledge of the talks. The Chinese officials are asking the U.S. to cancel Guo’s visa, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It’s unclear what steps Washington plans to take, if any. The White House would not comment on the matter.
Repatriating elite Chinese
The Guo saga highlights how China’s efforts to repatriate elite Chinese seeking refuge on American soil have become increasingly contentious in the bilateral relationship. The U.S. government has often refused Beijing’s demands to extradite corruption suspects, citing flimsy evidence and China’s opaque justice system. But the U.S. has sent back two Chinese fugitives in the past three months, including one suspected of rape.
Pressure on Guo has been building since April when Interpol issued a “red notice” seeking his arrest on corruption-related charges. Chinese authorities later sentenced several of his employees for fraud in June.
Police in central China opened the rape investigation July 5 after a former employee came forward, the officials said.
In interviews with police, the woman described how she was plucked from her human resources position at Guo’s real estate company in Hong Kong in 2015 and sent overseas to become his personal assistant. The woman, whose identity is being withheld by the AP, said that over the next two years, she was raped several times in New York, London and the Bahamas by Guo, who she said demanded sex from female employees as a test of their loyalty.
At times, she said, she languished in virtual detention after Guo’s staff confiscated her smartphone, computer, passport and keys and forbade her from leaving her room in his luxury apartment in the high-end London neighborhood of Belgravia. To prove her case, the woman surreptitiously met a lawyer friend in London earlier this year to give a written statement about her ordeal and kept her underwear, pregnancy tests and abortion pills as evidence, according to police documents.
In a brief phone interview with the AP arranged by Chinese officials, the woman confirmed the account and described fleeing Guo’s apartment to the Chinese Embassy in London in April to apply for a new passport before returning to China. She said she was speaking of her own volition and that police had assured her she could bring charges against Guo without facing repercussions for having worked for a highly sought-after fugitive.
Calls to Guo’s mobile phone since Tuesday evening in New York rang unanswered. Guo also did not respond to multiple requests for comment sent by an AP reporter to his WhatsApp mobile messaging account since Tuesday. Lawyers representing him at the New York firm Boies Schiller Flexner did not respond to requests for comment.
Interpol declined to comment about the latest warrant China is seeking for Guo’s arrest, referring questions to national authorities as is the policy in ongoing investigations.