Escalating efforts to repatriate one of the ruling Communist Party's most wanted exiles, Chinese police have opened an investigation on a new allegation, rape, against New York-based billionaire Guo Wengui, who has been releasing what he calls official secrets ahead of a pivotal party leadership conference.
Two Chinese officials with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that police are requesting a second Interpol arrest notice for Guo, 50, for the alleged sexual assault of a 28-year-old former personal assistant.
Guo and his representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The rape allegation represents a new element in the sprawling case that Chinese prosecutors are building against the real estate tycoon, who is being investigated for at least 19 major criminal cases. Allegations against him include bribing a top Chinese intelligence official, kidnapping, fraud and money laundering.
The Associated Press reviewed documents related to the rape investigation and confirmed their contents with Chinese official sources in Beijing, who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. The Chinese officials' disclosures to the AP — an unusual move given the political sensitivity of Guo's case in China — underscores Beijing's urgent effort to not only bring a fugitive to heel on criminal charges but also silence a potent irritant in the run-up to a key Communist Party congress during which political stability and the stifling of any challenges to the party head, President Xi Jinping, are paramount.
Although the United States does not have an extradition agreement with China, Beijing hopes that a mounting body of evidence could sway the U.S. government against extending the exiled businessman's visa, which is believed to expire in October, the Chinese officials said.
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials have discussed the allegations against Guo, according to a third person with direct knowledge of the talks. The Chinese officials are asking the U.S. to cancel Guo's visa, according to the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It's unclear what steps Washington plans to take, if any. The White House would not comment on the matter.
The Guo saga highlights how China's efforts to repatriate elite Chinese seeking refuge on American soil have become increasingly contentious in the bilateral relationship. The U.S. government has often refused Beijing's demands to extradite corruption suspects, citing flimsy evidence and China's opaque justice system. But the U.S. has sent back two Chinese fugitives in the past three months, including one suspected of rape.
In recent months, Guo has become a widely followed — and, in the eyes of China's leadership, highly destabilizing — social media presence by serving up sensational, if mostly unverifiable, tales of corruption and scandal within the Communist Party's innermost sanctum, including among Xi's closest allies.
In a daily stream of Twitter posts and YouTube videos tracked by Chinese who follow political gossip, Guo has revealed what he claims are everything from top leaders' secret homes in California to their bank account information and hidden stakes in business empires. He has vowed to continue airing the party's secrets until China unfreezes his assets and releases his relatives who have been seized by authorities, he says, as leverage against him.
Pressure on Guo has been building since April when Interpol issued a "red notice" seeking his arrest on corruption-related charges. Chinese authorities later sentenced several of his employees for fraud in June.
Police in central China opened the rape investigation July 5 after a former employee came forward, the officials said.
In interviews with police, the woman described how she was plucked from her human resources position at Guo's real estate company in Hong Kong in 2015 and sent overseas to become his personal assistant. The woman, whose identity is being withheld by the AP, said that over the next two years, she was raped several times in New York, London and the Bahamas by Guo, who she said demanded sex from female employees as a test of their loyalty.