An interview of Guo Wengui, a Chinese real estate tycoon mostly based abroad with an Interpol “red notice” against him, by Voice of America was cut short by the broadcaster, triggering rumours on social media.
Guo, who was among the top 80 rich persons in China a few years ago, was known for developing the landmark Pangu Plaza, a torch-shaped building near the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
He is also is a member of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, where the US leader met President Xi Jinping earlier this month.
By 2015, however, investigations by Chinese finance magazine Caixin revealed that Guo’s rise to the top was built on corrupt deals and shady political connections.He left China soon after.
“Guo Wengui, who also goes by the name Miles Kwok, reportedly started his career as a public servant in eastern China's Shandong province. His highest-profile investment is Pangu Plaza, an office and seven-star hotel complex in Beijing that overlooks the Olympic Stadium. He also controls a business that owns a stake in China's Founder Securities,” Forbes magazine described him in an article.
Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported earlier this week that the flamboyant tycoon is accused of bribing disgraced former state security vice minister Ma Jian with $8.71 million. Ma has been expelled from the Communist Party of China and is being investigated for graft.
Reuters reported that the Chinese government pressured Voice of America “to cancel the interview ahead of time (on Wednesday), with the foreign ministry summoning one of the broadcaster's Beijing-based correspondents on Monday”.
“What we understand is that Interpol has already issued a red notice for criminal suspect Guo Wengui,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a regular news briefing in Beijing. He did not give details.
“However the ‘red notice’ is not an arrest warrant and the US does not have an extradition treaty with China,” a state media report said.
On Thursday, Lu refused to respond to questions about the aborted interview, saying he would only answer if Voice of America asked the question.
China’s sensitivity about Guo’s case can be understood - he has been levelling allegations against the government, saying his family and he were being harassed under the guise of President Xi‘s anti-corruption campaign.
Guo, the head of real estate company Beijing Zenith Holdings, reportedly created a “Pangu Club” or a network of the elite and the powerful in China comprising top officials and businesspeople. According to Caixin, the downfall of China's top insurance regulator, Xiang Junbo, is allegedly related to Guo.