Any hope of tit-for-tat extraditions of fugitives between China and the United States, if it was ever possible, has vanished in the wake of worsening relations between Beijing and Washington, DC.
The poster child is Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, a China-born tycoon living in an upmarket New York apartment despite his status as a target of China’s notorious Operation Fox Hunt, which has repatriated up to 680 people, among them 40 of China’s 100 top fugitives. The US has accused China of using the operation to repatriate dissidents.
On the other side, the US Justice Department would like to get its hands on Low Taek Jho, the flamboyant 38-year-old Malaysian-born financier (above) believed by many to have been the architect of the 1Malaysia Development Bhd. (1MDB) scandal, in which as much as US$4.6 billion of state funds disappeared into corruption and mismanagement.
Jho Low, as he is widely known, is believed to be shuttling between Macau, Shenzhen, and Shanghai and, among other a vast list of other allegations, at one point attempted to get a top Trump campaign official to contact then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to kill the 1MDB investigation, which the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has called the biggest kleptocracy probe it has ever prosecuted.
In early May 2017, according to a November 2018 New York Times report, Jho Low agreed to pay Elliott Broidy, then the deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, US$8 million to contact Sessions to get the DOJ to drop its 1MDB investigation, according to US court documents. The attempt failed.
Broidy quit the Republican National Committee in April 2018, after a Wall Street Journal report that he agreed to pay US$1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, who said Broidy had impregnated her. He is now the subject of a DOJ investigation.
Recent US court documents show that in 2017, Sun Lijun, a now-disgraced senior Chinese police official, failed in his attempt to engineer Guo’s extradition in a case tainted by allegations of bribery and connected to the now-defunct Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB and to Jho Low. Sun, formerly a vice minister of Public Security and one of the most senior Chinese police officials overseeing Hong Kong, is himself under investigation by Chinese authorities.
Guo has continued to evade an Interpol red notice issued for his arrest in April 2017 at the request of the Chinese government, which accuses him of various crimes including bribery and fraud. Guo has continued to use social media to issue sensational but unproven allegations of corruption and sex scandal against top Chinese officials including Wang Qishan, at that time deputy prime minister and leader of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. Wang is currently Chinese vice president.
“Now, China describes Fox Hunt as some kind of international anti-corruption campaign—it is not,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a speech on July 7 to the Hudson Institute, a conservative US think tank. “Instead, Fox Hunt is a sweeping bid by General Secretary Xi to target Chinese nationals whom he sees as threats and who live outside China, across the world. We’re talking about political rivals, dissidents, and critics seeking to expose China’s extensive human rights violations,” said Wray.
“Hundreds of the Fox Hunt victims that they target live right here in the United States. I’ll take this opportunity to note that if you believe the Chinese government is targeting you—that you’re a potential Fox Hunt victim—please reach out to your local FBI field office,” Wray urged.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has penalized an American businesswoman, Nickie Lum Davis, for trying to facilitate Guo’s extradition in ways that broke a US law which requires lobbyists to register details of the lobbying with the US Attorney General. She has pleaded guilty to improperly facilitating a lobbying campaign to US President Donald Trump and the DOJ to extradite Guo to China and drop the DOJ investigation of 1MDB, said a DOJ press release on August 31. The DOJ press release did not name Guo but described him as “PRC National A” and a dissident, the same term used by FBI director Wray, without mentioning the crimes Guo was accused of by the Chinese government.
On May 18, 2017, Davis, a Hawaiian businesswoman, traveled to Shenzhen with Elliott Broidy, then deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee) and rapper Pras Michel, said a document filed with the US District Court of Hawaii on August 17. In Shenzhen, they met Sun and Jho Low. Sun asked Broidy to use his influence with high-ranking US officials to facilitate Guo’s extradition to China, the US court document disclosed.
Although the court document doesn’t name Sun, Guo, Michel, Broidy, or Jho Low, they fit the individuals described.
“PRC Minister A (Sun) also stated that he would be visiting Washington, D.C. soon and was having trouble scheduling meetings with certain high-ranking United States government officials,” the US court document revealed.
An investigator who declined to be named told Asia Sentinel, “Jho Low certainly had protection because he felt safe to be in Shenzhen.” Jho Low has been shuttling between Macau and mainland China on private jets since 2018, with his name registered in the travel records, said the investigator.
Davis and Broidy tried to arrange meetings for Sun with then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then-US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, and other high-level US officials during Sun’s visit to the US in May 2017, said the DOJ press release and US court document.
“Lum Davis and others concealed from the officials whom they lobbied that they were working on behalf of (Jho Low) and (Sun) and were being paid millions of dollars by (Jho Low) with the expectation of tens of millions more in success fees. The lobbying campaigns were ultimately unsuccessful,” the DOJ press release added.
In late May, Sun and a team of Chinese officials traveled to the US with the aim of extraditing Guo. However, one member of the Chinese team tipped off Guo, the investigator told Asia Sentinel.
Sun met Broidy in a hotel in Washington DC on May 30, 2017, according to the US court document. Broidy asked Rick Gates, a former US lobbyist and former deputy campaign manager for US President Donald Trump, for help in arranging meetings between Sun and senior US officials. According to the US court document, Broidy texted Gates on May 31, 2017: “I met with the VM (vice minister) last night. He is on a 4 pm flight back this afternoon. The FBI had him meeting with very low-level people…His superiors told him to come home unless meeting with (Sessions) or (Kelly). He is happy meeting with (Kelly).”
Later that day, Davis texted Broidy that Kelly was in Haiti that afternoon, rendering a meeting between Kelly and Sun impossible.
Davis texted Broidy, “Just spoke to VM and he sounded like he was crying."
Broidy responded, "Terrible. What a mess…This is a cluster fuck."