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Epoch Times CFO charged in $67 million money laundering scheme

The chief financial officer of the Epoch Times is facing charges of money laundering in an apparent US$67 million scheme to benefit himself and the company.

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York alleges that Weidong Guan, also known as Bill Guan, conspired with others in an “extensive, transnational scheme” to “benefit himself, the media company and his affiliates” .

Financial records on the ProPublica website show Guan is the chief financial officer of New York-based Epoch Times Media Group, which publishes the conservative newspaper and website of the same name.

The 61-year-old from New Jersey is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and two counts of bank fraud, each carrying a maximum penalty of 30 years.

In an email to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Epoch Times said Guan is “innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” and that the company would cooperate with any investigation into the allegations against him. but that it was suspended. until this issue is resolved.”

In a statement on Monday, US Attorney Damian Williams accused Guan of “laundering tens of millions of dollars in fraudulently obtained unemployment insurance benefits and other proceeds of crime.”

Williams alleges that members of the Epoch Times’ “Make Money Online” team, which Guan managed, used stolen personal identification information to launder ill-gotten funds through bank accounts set up in the media company’s name, as well as using the credit card prepaid debit and cryptocurrency. accounts.

“Once the proceeds of crime reached those bank accounts, they were often further laundered through other bank accounts held by media entities, Guan’s personal bank accounts, and Guan’s personal cryptocurrency accounts,” the statement said the district attorney.

It also said the media company’s increased annual revenue rose from about US$15 million to about US$62 million year-on-year, over a period “at or about the same time as the start of the scheme of money laundering”.

Guan is alleged to have overseen the scheme from at least 2020 until May this year while working for the company, which is not named in the statement.

The press release clearly states that the allegations against Guan “do not relate to the media company’s news gathering activities.”

LISTEN | Retired professor of journalism explains the Epoch Times:

Controversies and conspiracy theories

The Epoch Times was founded by Chinese immigrants as a non-profit media organization in 2000 and is closely associated with followers of Falun Gong, a religious practice declared a cult by the Chinese government in 1999.

Falun Gong’s global headquarters is located in a 1.73 square kilometer compound in upstate New York.

Once a free newspaper available in in-flight boxes or distributed in major cities promoting an anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) message, Epoch Times has transformed into an online purveyor of right-wing political views aligned with former US President Donald Trump. Critics have accused him of promoting disinformation and conspiracy theories.

According to its website, Epoch Times has editions in 23 languages ​​in 36 regions and countries, including Canada, with operations in Toronto.

Current and past columnists include Canadians such as former newspaper editor Conrad Black, former CRTC vice-chairman Peter Menzies and National Post opinion writers Barbara Kay and the late Rex Murphy.

There was controversy surrounding the Epoch Times in Canada in 2020 when unsolicited copies of the newspaper were delivered to homes across the country.

A copy of The Epoch Times was delivered to Lisa Armstrong in Kelowna, BC, even though she is not a subscriber.  She said she found the content A copy of The Epoch Times was delivered to Lisa Armstrong in Kelowna, BC, even though she is not a subscriber.  She said she found the content

A copy of The Epoch Times was delivered to Lisa Armstrong in Kelowna, BC, even though she is not a subscriber. She said she found the content “racist and inflammatory”.

A copy of a special edition of the Epoch Times that was delivered to homes across Canada in 2020. (Submitted by Lisa Armstrong)

The union representing Canada Post workers said the special edition focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and was the headline “How the Chinese Communist Party Endangered the World,” referring to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as the “CCP virus.”

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers made a request that Canada Post stop delivering the publication, citing fears of fueling xenophobia and retaliation against Asian Canadians and postal workers, but the federal government rejected it.

The Epoch Times also took on social media platforms — Facebook in particular — over its ads promoting Trump and conspiracy theories on various pages posing as news outlets.

According to NBC News, the Epoch Times spent $2 million on pro-Trump advertising on Facebook over a one-year period covering 2018 and 2019 — more than any other organization besides the Trump campaign itself.

The New York Times reported that Epoch Times then switched to YouTube, which demonetized its channel in 2021.

The company accused “Big Tech and legacy media” of unfairly targeting the publication and costing it revenue as a result.

“We’ve been demonetized on YouTube, blocked from advertising on Facebook, and shadow-banned on multiple social media platforms, in some cases due to pressure from advocacy journalists,” its website says.

It also claims to have lost contracts with companies in the United States and Canada after they received “phone calls or written communications from Chinese embassies or other Chinese Communist Party front groups.”