Cyprus is in the middle of a politically-charged extradition battle where a mother and son wanted by Chinese authorities are getting support from an American organization backed by Donald Trump’s former advisor.
(Click here for an update to the story)
Two Chinese nationals who have obtained golden passports in Cyprus were arrested on 8 December 2021 in Paphos district on investment fraud charges in connection with financial crimes under investigation in China said to have taken place in 2013.
The mother-son duo were detained in Peyia on an Interpol Red Notice and have been transported to Nicosia Central Prisons, where they wait for a district court in Paphos to adjudicate on the extradition request.
But the case may have political undertones after an American group came forward in support of the two suspects.
Bannon parted ways with the network around the same time US federal prosecutors charged him with allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors
According to daily Politis, the Ministries of both Justice and Interior in the Republic of Cyprus have received a letter from the Rule of Law Foundation, an organization aiming to “protect individuals speaking out against corruption and illegal activities in China.”
The group, tied to wealthy Chinese exile Guo Wengui and Steve Bannon, a China hawk who was Donald Trump’s former advisor, said the mother became a member of Rule of Law back in April 2020.
An official from the group argued the warrants for the arrests were politically motivated, telling Cypriot authorities that “China has a proven record of falsely accusing people outside the country in hopes they would end actions against the Chinese Communist Party.”
According to Politis, the group also mentions in their letter official statements from agencies in the United States, saying they too supported similar claims.
The mother and son have also been described as members of New Federal State of China, a movement that plans to overthrow the Chinese government.
A Cypriot lawyer handling the court case of the two suspects told Politis the defense team argued there was politically-motivated persecution “because of their ties to a political movement headquartered in the United States of America which is in favor of New Federal State of China and democratization of the People's Republic.”
But Bannon’s arrest in August 2020, which took place on Guo’s yacht, has brought new questions about fraud charges and further renewed mystery surrounding the non-profit owned by the real estate tycoon who fled China in 2014.
Guo, also known as Miles Kwok, is a self-styled crusader against corruption in China who drew the ire of the Chinese government but has also been sued by other Chinese dissidents.
US media also suggested Guo was reportedly a key figure in a network accused of spreading disinformation about COVID vaccines and elections.
Bannon parted ways with the network around the same time US federal prosecutors charged him with allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors through his “We Build the Wall” fundraising initiative back home.
Beijing and Nicosia have an extradition agreement which has been signed through legislation in the Republic of Cyprus.
The extradition hearing in Paphos is set to resume on January 21 in a court presided by District Judge Hadjigeorgiou.