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US sues casino tycoon Steve Wynn, accusing him of acting as Chinese agent

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The US Justice Department on Tuesday sued Steve Wynn, the former CEO of Wynn Resorts, to compel him to register as an agent of China and accused him of lobbying then President Donald Trump at Beijing's behest in 2017.

From at least June through August 2017, Wynn contacted Trump and members of his administration to convey a Chinese request that Trump cancel the visa of a Chinese businessman who had sought asylum in the United States, the department said.

Wynn engaged in those efforts at the request of Sun Lijun, a former vice-minister of China's ministry of public security, and did so to protect operations of casinos in Macau owned by Wynn's company, the Justice Department said in the complaint filed in federal court in Washington.

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Elliot Broidy, a former Trump fundraiser who had pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying, sought Wynn's help on behalf of Sun, according to the lawsuit.

Broidy had been cooperating with prosecutors in their investigation of fugitive businessman Jho Low's push on behalf of China for the US to extradite Guo Wengui, a wealthy exile who criticised China's government.

According to the US lawsuit, during a June 27, 2017, dinner with the former president, Wynn told Trump about the Chinese government's desire to have the businessman removed from the US, and gave the man's passport photos to Trump's secretary.

"After the dinner, Broidy informed the defendant by text [through defendant's wife] that Sun was "extremely pleased and said that President Xi Jinping appreciates [the defendant's] assistance".

Wynn's lawyers denied the allegations, saying he had never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and "had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act" (FARA).

After Wynn had discussions and met Trump in the White House about the Chinese national's status, in late August 2017, Broidy hosted Wynn and his wife on a personal yacht off the Italian coast, the agency said in the suit.

At that time, Broidy and Wynn phoned Trump from the yacht and asked "about the PRC national's status" and "Trump responded that he would look into the matter", the government said.

Steve Wynn (right) and Donald Trump talk before a baseball game in New York in October 2006. File photo: Reuters alt=Steve Wynn (right) and Donald Trump talk before a baseball game in New York in October 2006. File photo: Reuters>

Broidy, a Los Angeles money manager, admitted that he conspired to violate FARA. The law, which is rarely invoked in criminal cases, requires individuals to register with the US attorney general before lobbying on behalf of foreign nationals. He faces as long as five years in prison.

The suit is "the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades", Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said in the agency's statement.

Reuters and Bloomberg

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.