China’s attempt to follow fugitive real estate mogul caused confusion in Trump administration: report

FBI, Justice Dept. couldn’t coordinate efforts on Chinese intelligence officials
October 23, 2017 09:20AM

The penthouse at the Sherry-Netherland hotel and Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui (Credit: Twitter)

Chinese officials earlier this year made an attempt to arrest fugitive real estate mogul Guo Wengui in an incident that caused confusion among federal law enforcement agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Wengui, a Chinese real estate magnate who’s accused government officials and companies like HNA Group of corruption, has been living at his $67.5 million apartment at the Sherry-Netherland since 2015 as he awaits his application for asylum to be approved.

Some U.S. national security officials believe Guo could be a valuable bargaining chip with Beijing, and President Trump initially expressed interest in helping the Chinese government by deporting Guo.

In May, a top official at China’s equivalent of the Central Intelligence Agency and his colleagues visited Guo at his home, having entered the country on transit visas, to try to convince him to return home. Later that day, FBI agents confronted the officials at Pennsylvania Station, who claimed to be cultural affairs diplomats before confessing to be security agents the Journal reported. The FBI agents instructed them not to contact Guo and to leave the country.

But when the officials made plans to visit Guo again, the FBI agents raced to JFK airport with plans to arrest them on charges of visa fraud and extortion.

But the State Department, concerned about the consequences for U.S. officials in China, couldn’t come to a consensus on how to handle the situation. The FBI agents were only allowed to confiscate the Chinese officials’ phones before their flight took off.

U.S. officials reviewed the incident during a contentious meeting in June. [WSJ]Rich Bockmann