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U.S. sues casino mogul Steve Wynn over relationship with China

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Steve Wynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Justice Department sued longtime Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn on Tuesday to compel him to register as a foreign agent due to lobbying work it says he performed on the behest of the Chinese government throughout the Trump administration.

The department said it had advised Wynn repeatedly during the last 4 years to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, and is suing now because Wynn refused to achieve this.

Though the Justice Department has ramped up efforts to criminally prosecute individuals who don’t register as foreign agents, officials described this case as the primary lawsuit of its kind in greater than three a long time.

“Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the US, FARA gives the American people a right to know,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the top of the department’s National Security Division, said in an announcement.

Spokespeople for the department didn’t immediately comment on why the department had pursued a lawsuit quite than criminal charges.

Wynn’s lawyers said Tuesday that they might contest the suit.

“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” said an announcement from attorneys Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig. “We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and sit up for proving our case in court.”

The criticism alleges that Wynn, who stepped down from his company, Wynn Resorts, in 2018 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct, lobbied then-President Donald Trump and members of his administration for several months in 2017 to remove from the US a Chinese national who had been charged with corruption in China and was searching for political asylum in America. The efforts to have him faraway from the U.S. were ultimately unsuccessful.

It says the lobbying effort was done on behalf of senior Chinese government officials, including Sin Lijun, the then-vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security, and included conversations over dinner with Trump and by phone.

The criticism says Wynn was motivated to guard his business interests in China. On the time his company owned and operated casinos within the Chinese territory of Macau. The federal government in Macau had restricted the variety of gaming tables and machines that may very well be operated at Wynn’s casino, the criticism alleges, and he was scheduled to renegotiate licenses to operate casinos in 2019.

FARA, enacted in 1938 to unmask Nazi propaganda in the US, requires people to confide in the Justice Department once they advocate, lobby or perform public relations work within the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.

The criticism alleges that Wynn was drawn into the lobbying effort by Elliott Broidy, a outstanding fundraiser for Trump and the Republican Party who pleaded guilty in 2020 in a bootleg lobbying campaign geared toward getting the Trump administration to drop an investigation into the multibillion-dollar looting of a Malaysian state investment fund and for his role in a covert lobbying effort that sought to rearrange for the return of a Chinese dissident living within the U.S. Broidy was later pardoned by Trump.

The dissident will not be referred to by name by prosecutors, however it matches the outline of Guo Wengui. Guo left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption crackdown led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people near Guo, including a top intelligence official. Chinese authorities have accused Guo of rape, kidnapping, bribery and other offenses and have sought the return of the self-exiled tycoon.

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