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Wynn could face trial for failure to register as Chinese lobbyist

Updated September 28, 2022 - 6:08 pm

Former Wynn Resorts Ltd. CEO Steve Wynn could face a trial next year over his failure to register as a Chinese lobbyist, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Justice Department first filed a lawsuit in May against Wynn to force him to register as a foreign agent, after making repeated requests. The government accused him of delivering a message to then-President Donald Trump on behalf of a Chinese government official. Wynn has argued that he wasn’t lobbying when he told the Trump administration that China wanted the U.S. to extradite Guo Wengui, an exile who has criticized the Chinese government.

In Tuesday’s filing, both Wynn and the Justice Department said they don’t expect to reach a settlement in the case.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg is expected to rule on Wynn’s motion to dismiss the case within two weeks. If the case goes to trial, Boasberg said filings supporting the two sides would be due within 10 months.

The government has claimed that Wynn in 2017 was acting to protect his casino operations in Macao when he told Trump about China’s position on Wengui.

Wynn’s attorneys said he passed along the message from Sun Lijun, then-vice minister of China’s Ministry of Public Security. Wynn said he relayed the message as a diplomatic offer and Trump ultimately rejected it.

Wynn said, through his Washington attorneys Reid Weingarten and Brian Heberlig, that his obligation to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act ended after delivering the message from Lijun to Trump and that he no longer had a relationship with the Chinese government. He also said forcing him to register under FARA would violate his First and Fifth Amendment rights and that the Justice Department complaint did not meet the legal standard for triggering the need for registration.

The government’s filing is just the latest in a string of actions that has plagued the former casino executive, including an ongoing federal class-action lawsuit filed in 2019 against Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts.

Earlier this month, the Nevada Gaming Control Board confirmed that it is preparing for a disciplinary hearing before the Nevada Gaming Commission against former Wynn on sexual harassment charges. No date has been set for the hearing.

The move is part of the fallout that stemmed from reports in January 2018 by several publications, including the Review-Journal and the Wall Street Journal, that alleged Wynn of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. He has denied the allegations.

Wynn stepped down as Wynn Resorts’ CEO and chairman in February 2018.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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