The Epoch Times‘ Chief Financial Officer, Bill Guan has been arrested under accusations of his involvement in an extensive money-laundering operation. Federal prosecutors allege that Guan played a key role in a sophisticated global scheme to launder at least $67 million (£52 million) of illicit funds, benefiting himself and the news organisation.

Epoch Times CFO Arrested – Details of the Indictment

According to the indictment, Mr Guan spearheaded the outlet’s “Make Money Online” (MMO) team, a group which utilised cryptocurrency to purchase large sums of criminal proceeds. Prosecutors claim this team was integral to the laundering operation, transforming illegal funds into seemingly legitimate assets.

While Mr Guan has yet to enter a plea, the gravity of the charges could result in a prison sentence exceeding 30 years if convicted. The Epoch Times, in a statement, affirmed their commitment to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation. They emphasised that although Mr Guan is considered innocent until proven guilty, he has been suspended from his role until the allegations are resolved.

The MMO Team’s Alleged Operations

The federal indictment, which spans 12 pages, outlines the alleged activities of the MMO team, which reportedly began operations around 2020. Prosecutors describe a straightforward yet effective scheme: the MMO team would acquire crime proceeds via cryptocurrency at reduced rates and then channel these funds into bank accounts associated with the Epoch Times.

These illicit proceeds were subsequently filtered back into the news outlet’s accounts through a complex network of transactions. This included using prepaid debit cards and financial accounts created with stolen identification information, ensuring the money appeared clean. Over the years, this scheme is said to have significantly enriched the Epoch Times, funnelling tens of millions of dollars into the organisation.

Rapid Revenue Increase and Deceptive Practices

Coinciding with the inception of the alleged scheme, the Epoch Times experienced a dramatic increase in annual revenue. Internal accounting records reveal a staggering 410% rise in revenue, soaring from $15 million in 2019 to approximately $62 million in 2020. When questioned by banks regarding the source of this sudden influx of funds, Mr Guan reportedly lied, attributing the money to “donations.”

Charges and Legal Proceedings

Mr Guan faces serious charges, including one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and two counts of bank fraud. Prosecutors were quick to clarify that these charges do not implicate the Epoch Times’ newsgathering activities, focusing solely on the alleged financial misconduct.

Founded in 2000, the Epoch Times started as a modest, low-budget newspaper distributed freely in New York. Established by Chinese-Americans linked to the Falun Gong religious movement, the paper has since evolved into a significant conservative news organisation in the United States. The outlet is known for its right-wing commentary, dissemination of conspiracy theories, and staunch opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

The Current Situation and Future Implications

As of now, Mr Guan remains unreachable for comment, and the Epoch Times has not provided specific answers regarding the MMO team mentioned by prosecutors. The outcome of this case could have far-reaching implications not only for Mr Guan but also for the Epoch Times and its operations.

In the face of these allegations, the Epoch Times continues to assert Mr Guan’s innocence until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The news organisation’s decision to suspend him underscores the seriousness with which they are treating the charges and their intention to maintain transparency during the investigation.

This unfolding situation highlights the complexities and potential pitfalls of financial management within large organisations, especially those with substantial international operations and political influence. Many will undoubtedly watch the legal proceedings closely, given the high profile of both the accused and the news outlet involved. The case is a stark reminder about the importance of having effective AML procedures in place to ensure something like this doesn’t happen.