DoJ accuses far-right Epoch Times of being money-laundering operation

   2024-06-03 22:06

The far-right Epoch Times media company was at the center of a fraudulent money-laundering and cryptocurrency scam involving tens of millions of dollars, the justice department said on Monday as it announced the indictment of its chief financial officer Bill Guan.

The 61-year-old executive “conspired with others to participate in a sprawling, transnational scheme to launder at least approximately $67m of illegally obtained funds”, according to a statement from the US attorney’s office of the southern district of New York.

Proceeds went to the company, it said, and for the personal enrichment of individuals including Guan, who faces up to 70 years in prison on one count of conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud.

The attorney’s office said the charges did not relate to the newsgathering activities of the Manhattan-based Epoch Times, a media company popular with the conservative right wing for its often conspiratorial coverage of global politics and affairs, and outspoken criticism of the Chinese communist party.

Guan is accused of masterminding a scheme in which he managed the media company’s “Make Money Online” team overseas, the justice department said.

“Under Guan’s management, members of the team and others used cryptocurrency to knowingly purchase tens of millions of dollars in crime proceeds, including proceeds of fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits, that had been loaded onto tens of thousands of prepaid debit cards,” the statement said.

The proceeds were then allegedly “laundered” through a certain cryptocurrency platform and turned into digital currency at 70 to 80 cents on the dollar, prosecutors said.

Team members then used stolen personal identification information to open accounts and funnel the profits there, and subsequently into accounts held in their own names.

Guan, of Secaucus, New Jersey, lied to investigators about the source of the money when they started looking into an extraordinary 410% increase in the Epoch Times’ annual revenue from approximately $15m to about $62m, the statement further alleges.

It said he claimed the boost in funds came from “donations”, and that Guan then “wrote a letter addressed to a congressional office falsely stating ‘donations’ constitute ‘an insignificant portion of the overall revenue’ of the media company”.

In October of last year, NBC News reported an even larger increase in the Epoch Times revenue base, of 685% over two years. NBC’s investigation charted the company’s rise from an obscure, fringe publication into a conservative powerhouse over a relatively short period of time, to the point it was directing millions of dollars into Donald Trump’s failed 2020 re-election campaign.

A 2021 report in the Guardian featured the Epoch Times among a number of US media outlets linked to Falun Gong, a religious movement engaged in decades-long opposition to the Chinese government.

One of the company’s aims, the report suggested, was to amplify efforts by Republicans to link Joe Biden and the Democratic party to the Chinese Communist party (CCP) and harden US public opinion against China.

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