The Justice Department sued casino magnate Steve Wynn on Tuesday in an attempt to force him to register as a foreign agent for lobbying former President Donald Trump on behalf of China, according to the agency.
The complaint accuses Wynn of lobbying the former president and Trump administration officials in 2017, at the behest of China and Sun Lijun, a senior Chinese Ministry of Public Security official, for the return of a Chinese businessman wanted for corruption. The DOJ said Wynn owned and operated casinos in Macau, a special administrative region of China, during his alleged lobbying efforts and acted to protect his business interests in the region. The department claims it asked Wynn to voluntarily comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act before the lawsuit was filed. Wynn’s lawyers have denied the allegations.
“The filing of this suit — the first affirmative civil lawsuit under FARA in more than three decades — demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring transparency in our democratic system,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division in a statement. “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.”
The DOJ alleges that former Republican National Committee Finance Chairman Elliot Broidy enlisted Wynn, 80, to lobby Trump to cancel the visa of an unnamed Chinese businessman seeking political asylum in the United States. The Chinese businessman left China in 2014 and was later charged with corruption by the Chinese government. Broidy allegedly contacted Wynn after a meeting with Sun in May 2017.
According to the complaint, from at least June 2017 through at least August 2017, Wynn lobbied Trump and administration officials, including two chiefs of staff and National Security Council officials, on the matter.
The renowned Las Vegas casino magnate and hotelier allegedly spoke to Trump over dinner, in White House meetings, and by phone from Broidy’s yacht off the coast of Italy during the time period the DOJ alleges the lobbying effort took place.
Wynn also attempted to organize meetings with senior officials on the National Security Council and at the White House on the matter.
The efforts to remove the Chinese businessman from the U.S. “ultimately were unsuccessful,” and Wynn attempted to “exit the situation gracefully, preserve his business interests in China, and avoid offending anyone,” in October of 2017, according to the DOJ.
The lawsuit notes that in 2016, the Macau government restricted the number of gaming tables and machines at Wynn’s casino, and he was scheduled to renegotiate his licenses to operate casinos in the region in 2019, implying that this may have been the impetus for Wynn’s alleged involvement in the lobbying effort.
Broidy pleaded guilty in 2020 to one count of conspiracy related to the effort to remove the Chinese businessman and a separate attempt to stop a criminal investigation into a Malaysian investment fund.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Wynn’s lawyers denied the accusations and said that they would contest the lawsuit.
“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” attorneys Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig told the Associated Press in a statement. “We respectfully disagree with the Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of FARA and look forward to proving our case in court.”