Art Collector Steve Wynn Sued by US to Register as Foreign Agent

  • May 18, 2022 12:30

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Wynn Palace in Macau.

Former casino CEO Steve Wynn, who is well-known for his blue-chip art purchases, has been sued by the Department of Justice. Wynn is accused of lobbying Donald Trump in 2017 on behalf of the Chinese government in an effort to extradite a dissident residing in the U.S., according to a lawsuit in which the US seeks to compel him to register as a foreign agent.

Wynn allegedly lobbied Trump on behalf of Sun Lijun, a former Vice Minister of China’s ministry of public security, in order to protect operations of his company's casinos in Macau, the Justice Department alleges in the complaint filed in federal court in Washington. 

Le Rêve (1932), painting by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

The suit refers to the Foreign Agents Registration Act which requires individuals to register with the U.S. attorney general before lobbying on behalf of foreign nationals.

“Steve Wynn has never acted as an agent of the Chinese government and had no obligation to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” Wynn's lawyers responded in a statement. 

According to the Justice Department, Wynn acted on the behalf of Sun through a request from Elliott Broidy, a former Trump fundraiser who pleaded guilty to illegal lobbying. Broidy sought Wynn’s help with Trump, according to the lawsuit, in a push for the U.S. to extradite Guo Wengui, a wealthy exile who criticized China’s government. The lawsuit says that when Wynn dined with Trump in June 2017, he gave the man’s passport photos to Trump’s secretary.

“After the dinner, Broidy informed the Defendant by text (through Defendant’s wife) that Sun was 'extremely pleased and said that President Xi Jinping appreciates [the Defendant’s] assistance'.”

Broidy was pardoned by Trump, notes Bloomberg.

Wynn, who has faced multiple legal disputes and allegations of sexual misconduct over the years, has long been known for his high-profile art collecting, including pieces owned by or showcased at the Wynn resorts. Among his noteworthy acquisitions reportedly are Rembrandt's Man with His Arms Akimbo for $33.2 million; Vermeer's A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals for $30 million which he sold to the Leiden Collection; and two Picasso paintings from Donald Marron's collection purchased for $105 million in 2020, Woman with Beret and Collar and Jacqueline.

In a famous incident, Wynn accidently elbowed a hole through his Picasso portrait titled Le Rêve just prior to selling it to Steven A. Cohen for $139 million in 2006. After a $90,000 repair and a downgraded re-value to $85 million by his insurance company, which he sued and settled with, Wynn later sold Le Rêve to Cohen for a then-record $155 million in 2013.

Read more at Bloomberg

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