Epoch Times executive arrested over alleged $67m money laundering scheme

Weidong Guan is accused of involvement in ‘sprawling’ scheme to launder money to benefit himself and the right-wing outlet.

epoch times
The Epoch Times is known for its support of former US President Donald Trump and fierce criticism of the Chinese government [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

A top executive at the Epoch Times, a New York-based conservative media outlet known for its fierce criticism of the Chinese government, has been arrested over his alleged involvement in a money laundering scheme.

Weidong “Bill” Guan, the outlet’s chief financial officer, is alleged to have participated in a “sprawling, transnational scheme” to launder at least $67m in illegally obtained funds to benefit himself and the company, the United States Department of Justice said on Monday.

Under the management of Guan, members of the company’s “Make Money Online” team used cryptocurrency to buy tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits that were loaded onto prepaid debit cards, the DOJ said.

Employees then used stolen personal information to open bank and cryptocurrency accounts for transferring the illicit proceeds, which were further laundered through other bank accounts held by the Epoch Times and Guan, according to federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said the charges are not related to the Epoch Times’s news-gathering activities.

“When banks raised questions about the funds, Guan allegedly lied repeatedly and falsely claimed that the funds came from legitimate donations to the media company,” US Attorney Damian Williams said.

“Today’s charges reflect this office’s ongoing commitment to vigorously enforcing the laws against those who facilitate fraud through money laundering and to protecting the integrity of the US financial system.”

Guan, 61, of Secaucus, New Jersey, faces one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud.

The most serious of the charges carries a maximum punishment of 30 years in prison.

Guan’s lawyer Ariel Werner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, The Epoch Times said it has “a guiding principle that elevates integrity in its dealings above everything else.”

“The company intends to and will fully cooperate with any investigation dealing with the allegations against Mr. Guan,” the company said.

“In the interim, although Mr. Guan is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the company has suspended him until this matter is resolved.”

The Epoch Times, which is affiliated with the Falun Gong spiritual movement, was founded in 2000 to provide a platform for opposing the Chinese Communist Party.

In recent years, the outlet has become known for promoting right-wing views, including unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.

Since 2016, the outlet has strongly backed former US President Donald Trump, including through pro-Trump Facebook advertising.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies