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Steve Wynn sued by Justice Department

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department sued casino mogul Steve Wynn Tuesday to force him to register as a lobbyist in connection with his 2017 efforts to obtain a diplomatic favor long sought by Chinese authorities.

The lawsuit comes almost a year after the department told Wynn to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act and signaled that it would go to court to compel him to do so if necessary, as The Wall Street Journal reported at the time, citing people familiar with the matter.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department said Wynn contacted then-President Donald Trump and members of his administration about the favor in 2017, in order to protect his then-business interests in Macau, China’s gambling hub.


The dispute relates to Wynn’s alleged efforts in the summer of 2017 to persuade U.S. officials to send back to China a Chinese businessman in New York, Guo Wengui, whom Chinese authorities consider a fugitive. Guo has been accused of a range of criminal offenses, from bribery to sexual assault, all of which he has denied.

The Justice Department said Wynn had declined to register under FARA after the agency advised him to do so. The case is the first lawsuit of its kind in years, authorities said.

The Justice Department sued casino mogul Steve Wynn Tuesday to force him to register as a lobbyist in connection with his 2017 efforts to obtain a diplomatic favor long sought by Chinese authorities. (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty I (Photo by Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“The filing of this suit — the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades—demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” the head of the Justice Department’s national security division, Matt Olsen, said.

Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, lawyers for Wynn, said in a statement that their client never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register. “We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court,” they said.

Wynn, a 79-year-old billionaire and friend and informal adviser to Mr. Trump, is widely viewed as the architect of the modern Las Vegas Strip lined with luxury resorts. He resigned as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts Ltd. in 2018 after the Journal published an article detailing allegations of sexual misconduct by Wynn toward employees. He has said the idea that he ever assaulted any woman is preposterous.


In 2020, two of Wynn’s associates admitted in plea agreements with the Justice Department that in June and July 2017, they had discussed Guo’s removal with Wynn and helped facilitate calls between Wynn and a Chinese government official about Beijing’s desire for Guo’s removal from the U.S. A spokesman for Guo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xi Jinping

ATHENS, GREECE – NOVEMBER 11: Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Maximos Mansion on November 11, 2019 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images) Stock market concept: istock (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images  |    istock / Getty Images)

One of the associates, Elliott Broidy, also admitted that he was with Wynn on Wynn’s yacht in August 2017 when Wynn called Trump to ask about Guo’s status in the U.S. Broidy pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the foreign-lobbying law in connection with that and other work, but was pardoned by Trump on his final day in office.

A spokesman for Broidy, who had pleaded guilty in connection with his work on behalf of a foreign businessman and not a Chinese government official, declined to comment.

Billionaire Steve Wynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd., speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017.  (Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

According to the lawsuit, Wynn discussed Guo with Trump at a dinner in June 2017, saying Chinese officials wanted him returned. After that dinner, Broidy texted a message to Wynn saying a Chinese official was “extremely pleased and said that President Xi Jinping appreciates” Wynn’s assistance.

In a message to another associate, Wynn wrote that he had advised a Chinese government official to have China’s ambassador to Washington contact senior officials at the National Security Council directly, adding that he had spoken to them directly and received assurances “that all parties in the White House were fully sensitive to the timing of this issue and the relevant USA procedural law involved.”


Wynn added, according to the lawsuit, “I remain grateful for the privilege of being part of the Macau and PRC business community,” referring to the People’s Republic of China.

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