The U.S. State Department is suing casino mogul Steve Wynn in connection with his alleged 2017 effort to obtain a diplomatic favor sought by Chinese authorities. The agency claims the business figure made the effort to protect his financial interests in Macau.
The lawsuit comes nearly a year after the department directed Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as a lobbyist for China. The move signaled the government agency would pursue legal action against Wynn if he failed to comply, the Wall Street Journal first reported.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington this week, the Justice Department claimed that Wynn contacted members of the Trump administration, including then-President Donald Trump to inquire about the favor in the summer of 2017, allegedly seeking to safeguard his business interests in Macau, known for being one of China largest gambling hubs.
Wynn, who ranks on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list, has long been an active collector of modern art, amassing major works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. In February 2018, Wynn resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
The current dispute alleges that the casino magnate attempted to persuade U.S. officials to extradite the exiled Chinese securities mogul, Guo Wengui, a self-styled whistleblower who fled China in 2014 while facing allegations of corruption. Wengui has been linked to former Trump aide Steve Bannon and has been accused of multiple offenses, including bribery and sexual assault. He resides in New York.
In 2020, two professional associates of Wynn confessed during plea deals with the department to discussing Guo’s extradition with Wynn between June and July 2017. They allegedly facilitated calls between Wynn and a Chinese government official to discuss the Beijing government’s push to have Guo removed from the U.S. The lawsuit alleges that Wynn discussed the move with Trump at a dinner during this period. On his last day in office, Trump pardoned one of Wynn’s associates, Elliott Broidy, who was convicted for attempting to violate the foreign-lobbying law.
The filing “demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” Matt Olsen, the Justice Department’s national security division representative, said in a statement.
Legal representatives for Wynn have denied the department’s allegations and say that Wynn did not act as an agent for the Chinese government.