Fri, Sep 01, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Beijing accuses exiled tycoon of sexual assault

EXTRADITION SOUGHT:A source said that Beijing is hoping a mounting body of evidence could persuade Washington to not extend Guo Wengui’s US visa

AP, BEIJING

Escalating efforts to repatriate one of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) most wanted exiles, Chinese police have opened an investigation on a new allegation, rape, against New York-based billionaire Guo Wengui (郭文貴), 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 said 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 requests for comment.

The 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 CCP congress during which political stability and the stifling of any challenges to the party head, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), are paramount.

Although the US does not have an extradition agreement with China, Beijing hopes that a mounting body of evidence could sway the US government against extending the exiled businessman’s visa, which is believed to expire next month, the Chinese officials said.

Senior US 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 US to cancel Guo’s visa, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House did not comment on the matter.

The Guo saga highlights how China’s efforts to repatriate elite Chinese seeking refuge on US soil have become increasingly contentious in the bilateral relationship.

The US government has often refused Beijing’s demands to extradite corruption suspects, citing flimsy evidence and China’s opaque justice system. However, the US has sent back two Chinese fugitives in the past three months, including one suspected of rape.

In recent months, Guo has become a widely followed — and, in the eyes of China’s leadership, highly destabilizing — social media presence by serving up sensational, if mostly unverifiable, tales of corruption and scandal within the CCP’s innermost sanctum, including among Xi’s closest allies.

In a daily stream of Twitter posts and YouTube videos tracked by Chinese who follow political gossip, Guo has revealed what he claims are everything from top leaders’ secret homes in California to their bank account information and hidden stakes in business empires.

He has vowed to continue airing the party’s secrets until China unfreezes his assets and releases his relatives who he says have been seized by authorities as leverage against him.

Police in central China opened the rape investigation on July 5 after a former employee came forward, the officials said.

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