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Victory for Steve Wynn as appeals court rejects bid to revive charges

Updated June 17, 2024 - 12:27 pm

A federal appeals court in Washington has rejected a Justice Department request to revive charges against former Wynn Resorts Ltd. chairman and CEO Steve Wynn for failing to register as a foreign agent in 2017.

The three-judge panel upheld a lower court ruling that Wynn was not required to register as a lobbyist when he advised former President Donald Trump on matters involving China.

The court concurred that, because Wynn was no longer operating in that capacity, he was not required to register.

Wynn could not be reached for comment.

In May 2023, the Justice Department appealed District Court Judge James Boasberg’s ruling that Wynn did not have to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Boasberg’s decision was based on the government not being able to compel Wynn to register years after any lobbying occurred.

The government said in its appeal that Wynn should have to register because it would set a precedent for an “opportunity for gamesmanship” in which individuals would be less likely to register as foreign agents knowing that they would face no civil penalty once they stop acting on behalf of a foreign citizen.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit in May 2022 against Wynn after it repeatedly asked him to register as a foreign agent after he delivered a message to then-President Trump from a Chinese government official.

In a filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, both Wynn and the Justice Department said they didn’t expect to reach a settlement in the case.

Wynn, who left Wynn Resorts in 2018 following a sexual harassment scandal, has said he is a private citizen and no longer bound by business regulations.

Wynn has argued that he wasn’t lobbying when he told the Trump administration that China wanted the United States to extradite Guo Wengui, a wealthy exile who criticized the Chinese government.

In the original Justice Department lawsuit, the government claimed Wynn in 2017 was acting to protect his casino operations in Macao when he told Trump about China’s position on Guo.

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

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

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