POLITICS
21/08/2020 10:35 AM AEST

FBI Now Probing $300 Million Media Company Deal Linked To Steve Bannon: Report

The FBI and SEC launched an investigation after investors said they never received verification of their investments, sources told The Wall Street Journal.

Steve Bannon’s fraud indictment linked to fundraising for Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall isn’t his only legal headache. The Wall Street Journal reports that the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission are also investigating a $300 million investment offering for a planned media company tied to Bannon and fugitive Chinese businessman Guo Wengui.

Bannon was arrested Thursday morning aboard Guo’s luxury yacht after he was indicted for fraud for allegedly siphoning funds from a crowdfunding campaign known as “We Build the Wall” that raised more than $25 million. The “volunteer” organization promised that 100% of donations from hundreds of thousands of contributors would go toward building a section of Trump’s long-promised border wall, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Bannon pleaded not guilty later in the day and was released on a $5 million bond.

On Wednesday, the Journal had reported that officials were probing the private offering to raise funds for GTV Media Group. Bannon is listed as GTV’s director and Guo as its adviser and fundraiser in a company fundraising document the Journal viewed. Guo, a wanted fugitive in China, has been accused of bribery, fraud and money laundering, all of which he has denied.

DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon greets fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui before introducing him at a news conference on Nov. 20, 2018.

Investigators are examining whether GTV Media or associates of Guo violated securities laws, according to the Journal’s sources. Soon after the investment offering, people began demanding refunds, saying they never received documentation verifying their investments, the newspaper reported. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo have already frozen accounts tied to the money raised in the operation, sources said.

The British Columbia Securities Commission issued an “investment caution” in May after Canadians purchased shares of GTV Media Group Inc. It warned that company officials “have not registered to sell securities in BC and have not filed a prospectus with the British Columbia Securities Commission.” The alert added: “We urge BC residents to exercise caution when dealing with companies that are not registered to issue shares.”

Neither Bannon nor Guo responded to requests for comment from the Journal.

A fundraising document reviewed by the Journal said GTV would be a platform for news, social media and e-commerce, and would serve as the “only uncensored and independent bridge between China and the Western world.”

The document named Amazon, ByteDance’s TikTok and Tencent’s WeChat as expected competitors. Early this month, Trump ordered the latter two companies, both Chinese, to finalize deals to sell to U.S. companies in 90 days or to stop operating in the U.S.

Read The Wall Street Journal’s full report here.