Casino tycoon Steve Wynn doesn’t need to register as a foreign agent, judge rules

correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Guo Wengu as the senior Chinese government official at whose request Wynn allegedly acted. Guo was the Chinese national whose deportation from the United States was allegedly sought by Wynn and senior Chinese official Sun Lijun. The story has been corrected.

A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a Justice Department lawsuit seeking to compel Republican casino magnate and megadonor Steve Wynn to register as a China agent, undermining stepped-up US government efforts to control foreign influence in American politics.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg of Washington, in a 20-page opinion, did not determine whether Wynn, the former general manager of Wynn Resorts, in fact acted as Beijing’s agent to advance her interests in 2017 through her relationship. with President Donald Trump and members of his administration.

But Boasberg said that despite his reservations, the government had no legal authority under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to force Wynn to register retroactively after his alleged relationship with authorities ended. Chinese. The Justice Department filed the first lawsuit to compel FARA registration in more than 30 years against Wynn last May, a sign of tougher enforcement of the 1938 law, originally enacted to target Nazi propaganda.

Boasberg said he agreed that the binding disclosure by Wynn was “fully consistent with FARA’s central purpose,” and he did not dispute that even the retroactive disclosure by former agents would reveal “information that [FARA] states the needs of the public. Nonetheless, the judge concluded, “While FARA’s goals are laudable, this Court is bound to apply the law as interpreted by the DC Circuit. And that requires dismissal.

US sues to force casino mogul Steve Wynn to register as China agent

Wynn, a former Republican National Committee finance chairman, has been accused of relaying a request from a senior Chinese official for the Trump administration to remove Chinese national Guo Wengui, who had sought asylum in the United States. . Wynn’s activities, prosecutors said, included discussing Beijing’s interests directly with Trump at a June 2017 dinner, providing Guo’s passport photos to the president’s secretary and other actions through August. 2017. Wynn, according to the government, acted at the request of the Chinese. official, Sun Lijun, then Deputy Minister of Public Security, as well as the Chinese government itself.

Wynn acted to protect important business interests in China involving casinos he owned and operated in Macau, according to the Justice Department, which had ordered Wynn to register three times without success.

In a written statement, Wynn’s attorneys, Reid Weingarten and Robert Luskin, said, “We are delighted that the District Court today dismissed the government’s ill-conceived lawsuit against Steve Wynn. Mr. Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and has never lobbied on its behalf. It’s a claim that should never have been filed, and the Court agreed.

Guo, who left China in 2014 and was later charged with corruption, was not named in the complaint but has already been identified by prosecutors.

A Justice Department spokesman did not immediately comment.

In a press release last May, Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said the lawsuit demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring “transparency in our democratic system.”

“Where a foreign government uses an American as an agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people the right to know,” Olsen said at the time.

David H. Laufman, a Wiggin and Dana associate who previously oversaw FARA enforcement at the Justice Department, called the decision a “significant setback” that will encourage individuals and businesses to resist the department’s demands to stand up. register retroactively.

“If this decision is upheld, the DOJ will essentially be left with two options when it discovers that a person or entity previously engaged in FARA-registrable activity, but is no longer engaged in such activity: either do nothing, or – if the Department can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the failure to register was ‘willful’ – pursue criminal charges,” Laufman said. “The decision deprives the DOJ of an enforcement tool essential intermediary between completely waiving responsibility or bringing criminal charges.”

Wynn resigned as RNC’s finance chairman in January 2018 and as CEO of Wynn Resorts the following month over allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied. He and his wife have remained prolific political donors, contributing about $2.5 million to Republican candidates and committees in the first three months of this year, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

The Justice Department said Wynn was approached about working with China by longtime GOP and Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who worked under Wynn as the RNC’s vice president of finance after the 2016 election of Trump as President. Broidy pleaded guilty in October 2020 to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting millions of dollars to covertly lobby the Trump administration for Malaysian and Chinese interests, and was granted a full pardon from Trump the day before the president leaves in January 2021.

The investigation into Broidy and later Wynn has its roots in an investigation into the embezzlement of several billion dollars from a Malaysian government development fund, known by the shorthand “1MDB”.

In previous civil and criminal cases, federal prosecutors have alleged that some of the stolen money entered the United States, where it was used for purposes such as buying expensive real estate and even financing from the award-winning film “The Wolf of Wall”. Rue.” Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of involvement in corruption. He was found guilty in July 2020 and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

At the center of the investigation is a Malaysian businessman named Low Taek Jho, who was indicted in 2018 and accused of funneling tens of millions of dollars to the United States in part to get the Malaysian Corruption Investigation. Low, who faces multiple federal charges, is believed to be in China, beyond the reach of US authorities. He denied the allegations and said they were politically motivated.

Separately, Broidy’s business associate, Nickie Mali Lum Davis, also pleaded guilty, as did former Department of Justice employee George Higginbotham. Former Fugees rapper Pras Michel, who is indicted for estranged relationships with Low, has denied any wrongdoing and will face trial next March.

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