Steve Wynn reportedly delivered letter from Chinese government to Trump asking for man's deportation

Key Points
  • Casino tycoon Steve Wynn may have played a central role in a U.S.-Chinese diplomatic episode involving a Chinese businessman seeking asylum in the U.S.
  • Wynn hand-delivered a letter from the Chinese government to President Donald Trump urging him to send Guo Wengui back to China, the Wall Street Journal reported.
  • In 2016, Macau properties accounted for more than 60 percent of the Wynn casino's net revenues, according to the company.
  • Mr. Guo is a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.
Billionaire businessman Guo Wengui speaks during an interview in New York City, April 30, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Casino tycoon Steve Wynn may have played a central role in a U.S.-Chinese diplomatic episode strange enough that the Wall Street Journal wrote it was "worthy of a spy thriller."

The billionaire CEO of Wynn Resorts, who maintains substantial holdings in the Chinese region of Macau, hand-delivered a letter to President Donald Trump written by the Chinese government, the Journal reported. The letter urged the president to return Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman who fled the country in 2014 and is now seeking asylum in the United States.

Wynn is the Republican National Committee finance chairman.

The White House and Wynn did not respond to requests for comment from CNBC. Wynn resorts told the Journal the report was false.

Wynn's China properties account for a significant share of his business. Those properties include the Wynn Macau and the Wynn Palace, a $4.1 billion gambling giant that opened in Macau in 2016.

Macau is a so-called "special administrative region" of China that operates with some legal autonomy, according to an agreement signed by China and Macau in 1999. It's one of the world's gambling capitals, and gaming taxes account for more than three quarters of the region's tax revenues.

Both properties are operated on land leased under multi-decade agreements from the government. The casinos are subject to a license renewal process that takes place once a year, according to the company's SEC filings.

The Wynn Palace has been a successful venture for the company.

Earlier this month Deutsche Bank analysts raised their price target for Wynn Resorts after the casino posted results that beat expectations. J.P. Morgan upped its earnings estimates for the property Oct. 5, saying the casino was benefitting from a substantial VIP presence.

In 2016, the Macau properties accounted for more than 60 percent of the company's net revenues, according to the company.

Pangu Plaza, a torch-shaped landmark building near the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing, developed by Guo Wengui, who was among the top 80 rich persons in China a few years ago. On April 19, China's foreign ministry said that Interpol has issued a 'red notice' seeking the arrest of Guo Wengui.
Zhang Peng | LightRocket | Getty Images

Guo has been a vocal critic of alleged government corruption in China, and is seeking asylum in the United States as Chinese authorities investigate him for crimes such as bribery and rape.

Whether the United States will return him remains a flashpoint in the diplomatic relationship between the two superpowers, the Journal reported, as they go back and forth on trade disputes and a security crisis in North Korea.

According to the Journal, the letter Wynn delivered influenced the president. In a June meeting in the Oval Office the president referred to Guo as a "Chinese criminal" that the United States needed to immediately deport.

"We need to get this criminal out of the country," Trump said, flanked by top advisers and Vice President Mike Pence, according to the WSJ report.

Aides later convinced the president to refrain from deporting Guo, the Journal reported, including by telling the president that Guo is a member of the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. The property is owned by Trump, who has visited frequently throughout his presidency and nicknamed the resort the "Winter White House."

Read the full Wall Street Journal report here.