Chinese Tycoon's Daughter Challenges Hong Kong Over Asset Freeze
(Bloomberg) -- The daughter of exiled Chinese property tycoon Guo Wengui is seeking the release of assets that she says Hong Kong police have frozen as part of a probe into whether the family laundered $4.2 billion through local companies.
The conflict is the latest twist in the saga of Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, a mainland Chinese businessman and prominent critic of the government in Beijing. Living in exile in the U.S. since 2015, Guo is known for lobbing allegations of political corruption involving high-level officials from the ruling Communist Party, including via YouTube and Twitter.
The assets freeze came to light through a lawsuit filed with Hong Kong’s High Court on Tuesday by Anton Development Ltd., whose director and sole shareholder is Guo’s daughter, Guo Mei. The lawsuit seeks to release company funds that have been frozen since July 2017, arguing that holding the money indefinitely without explanation or update on the status of the investigation was “irrational and oppressive.”
The Hong Kong police declined to comment on the case Wednesday and it was unclear whether any probe is ongoing.
Guo and a New York-based lawyer who represents him didn’t respond to inquiries. A representative for Anton’s law firm said Thursday they had no further comment on the case.
Police told Anton they’re investigating whether Guo and his associates laundered HK$32.9 billion ($4.2 billion) through personal bank accounts and others held by their local companies, including Anton and Hong Kong International Funds Investments Ltd., according to the filing. Investigators said the money was “known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence” under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance, the lawsuit said.
Anton said the police applied for warrants in August 2017 to search its offices and those of HKIFIL, which is also owned by Guo Mei. The then-manager of both companies, Qu Guojiao, was arrested on suspicion of money laundering that same month and released on bail, Anton said in court papers, without elaborating.
Anton said that the account freeze violated its rights to private property as protected by Hong Kong law. The accounts contained a combined balance of at least $199.2 million, of which some $93 million originated from an Abu Dhabi sovereign fund, according to the filing.
“All along, Anton has had no idea on what basis the police continued with the freezing of the accounts month after month,” the company said in the court filing. The company said it was “wholly unreasonable and disproportionate” to hold its assets indefinitely.
Guo was sued last year for defamation by Chinese companies including conglomerate HNA Group Co. after saying that Communist Party officials were undisclosed shareholders. Guo has said his allegations are true, and therefore it wasn’t defamation.
In a separate case, China said in April 2017 that it had asked Interpol to issue a red notice for Guo’s arrest, alleging he had paid a bribe of 60 million yuan ($8.7 million) to a former state security official. Guo has said in separate court filings that the Interpol notice was an attempt to silence him, and that the Chinese Communist Party has also tried to discredit him by directing internet users to criticize him online.
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