WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn to compel him to register as a foreign agent because of lobbying work he allegedly did at the request of the Chinese government under the Trump administration.
The department said it repeatedly advised Wynn over the past four years to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, and is now suing because Wynn refused to do so. To do.
Although the Justice Department has stepped up efforts to criminally prosecute people who do not register as foreign agents, officials have described the case as the first such lawsuit in more than three decades.
“When 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,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, head of the National Security Division. of the department, in a press release. .
A department spokesperson declined to comment on why the department filed a lawsuit rather than criminal charges.
Wynn’s attorneys said Tuesday they would contest the lawsuit.
“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and was under no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” said a statement from attorneys Reid Weingarten and Brian. Heberlig. “We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”
The complaint alleges that Wynn, who resigned from his company, Wynn Resorts, in 2018 after several women accused him of sexual misconduct, pressured President Donald Trump and members of his administration for several months in 2017. to remove from the United States a Chinese National who had been accused of corruption in China and was seeking political asylum in America. Efforts to have the man deported from the United States ultimately failed.
The lawsuit says the lobbying effort was made on behalf of senior Chinese government officials, including Sun Lijun, then deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security who asked for Wynn’s help in trying to have the decision denied. Chinese national’s new visa application, according to the complaint.
The lobbying effort also included conversations over dinner with Trump and over the phone, and multiple visits to the White House for seemingly unscheduled meetings on the issue were discussed.
The complaint says Wynn was motivated to protect its business interests in China. At the time, his company owned and operated casinos in the Chinese territory of Macau. The Macau government had limited the number of gaming tables and machines that could be operated at Wynn’s Casino, according to the Justice Ministry, and it was due to renegotiate casino operating licenses in 2019.
FARA, enacted in 1938 to expose Nazi propaganda in the United States, requires people to disclose to the Department of Justice when they defend, lobby, or perform public relations work in the United States on behalf of a government foreigner or a political entity.
The complaint alleges Wynn was dragged into the lobbying effort by Elliott Broidy, a major fundraiser for Trump and the Republican Party who pleaded guilty in 2020 to an illicit lobbying campaign aimed at getting the Trump administration to drop out. an investigation into the multi-billion dollar looting. of a Malaysian state investment fund and for his role in a covert lobbying effort to organize the return of a Chinese dissident living in the United States
Broidy was later pardoned by Trump at the end of his administration.
The dissident was not named by prosecutors, but he matches Guo Wengui’s description. Guo left China in 2014 during an anti-corruption campaign led by President Xi Jinping that ensnared people close to Guo, including a senior intelligence official. Chinese authorities have charged Guo with rape, kidnapping, bribery and other crimes and have demanded the return of the self-exiled tycoon.
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