The US Department of Justice is suing casino tycoon Steve Wynn to try to force him register as a foreign agent, accusing him of lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of the Chinese government.
Mr Wynn, a billionaire who resigned from his company Wynn Resorts in 2018, has refused three requests in the past five years to register as a foreign agent, according to the DOJ.
The suit against him was filed in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking a declaratory judgement that he must register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Mr Wynn is alleged to have lobbied then-president Donald Trump and other members of the administration in 2017 on behalf of Sun Lijun, a former vice minister in China’s Ministry of Public Security.
The justice department said Mr Wynn had delivered a request from China to deport an unidentified businessman who had sought asylum in the US after being charged with corruption by Beijing.
Mr Wynn had approached Mr Trump over dinner and by phone.
Mr Wynn also had “multiple discussions” with Mr Trump and senior officials at the White House and National Security Council with the aim of organising a meeting with Chinese officials, the justice department said.
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At the time, Mr Wynn’s company owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region of China.
The DOJ said: “The department alleges that Wynn acted at the request of the People’s Republic of China out of a desire to protect his business interests in Macau.”
No other instances were alleged by the DOJ but in a statement, they said Mr Wynn’s failure to register as a foreign agent “constitutes an ongoing violation of FARA and, given the likelihood that his violation will continue in the absence of court action, a permanent injunction is necessary”.
Matthew G Olsen, assistant attorney general for the department’s national security division, said: “Where a foreign government uses an American as its agent to influence policy decisions in the United States, FARA gives the American people a right to know.”
Mr Wynn’s lawyers Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, said they disagreed with the department’s legal interpretation of FARA and looked forward to proving their case in court.