The Billionaire Behind Bannon’s Fake Chinese Embassy
Mogul’s bulletproof Manhattan mansion shields network of right-wing news and nonprofits.
Sheathed in bulletproof glass imported from Germany and Spain, a six-story, six-bedroom postmodern fortress on East 64th Street was custom-designed in 2015 for Argentine billionaire Eduardo Eurnekian. But for at least a year it has served as a supposed consulate for the “New Federal State of China,” declared by ex-White House strategist Stephen Bannon and his flamboyant Chinese patron, fugitive businessman Guo Wengui.
Earpiece-wearing guards stalk an otherwise historic block, while a star-spangled national flag designed by Guo himself dangles from a pole mounted to the swerving facade. In the doorway alcove, just past the unwavering eye of a security camera, metal letters spell out “The Himalaya Embassy.”
The installation has bewildered neighbors who spoke with The Daily Beast with the flashy characters and occasional motorcades it attracts. Meanwhile, public records, court documents, and in-person observations reveal that Bannon and Guo have converted the building’s residential floors, against code and zoning, into the offices for their network of right-wing media and nonprofits—which have recently gained attention for publishing bogus COVID-19 studies and promoting conspiracy theories about Hunter Biden.
A woman The Daily Beast intercepted while entering the building identified herself as an employee of the Rule of Law Society, one of the nonprofits Guo and Bannon launched in November 2018. She attested that the various entities inhabiting the structure are “all one organization.” Security intervened before The Daily Beast could get her name and title.
It’s unclear why, or under what terms, Eurnekian has allowed Bannon and Guo to use his abode. Born to Armenian parents in Buenos Aires in 1932, Eurnekian built his $1.8 billion fortune as something of an entrepreneurial nomad. According to the Spanish paper El Pais, after his family textile business collapsed in the early 1980s, he moved into media, acquiring a cable station he claims to have sold for a tidy $750 million in 1995.
From there, he moved on to airports, becoming responsible, by 1998, for some 90 percent of the traffic in the skies of his native land. His Corporación América has since expanded into Brazil, Italy, Armenia, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Peru—as well as into energy, agriculture, nanotechnology, and even an envisioned railway that would pierce the Andes and link Argentina with Chile.
To design and build his Manhattan residence, Eurnekian hired the world-famous Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, a talent usually recruited to dream up massive public buildings and luxury skyscrapers like the One River Point condo tower in Miami, and the New York University complex in Abu Dhabi.
But not long after construction on the home wrapped, the billionaire put it up for sale, asking an eye-popping $50 million. However, Eurnekian’s real estate agent told The Daily Beast that Guo’s organization almost immediately leased the property, effectively moving it off-market. Official listings remain up, broker Maria Belen Avellaneda said, but there has been no active effort to sell the location in three years. Avellaneda declined to describe the particulars of the Guo-Eurnekian deal, as did an assistant to Eurnekian The Daily Beast reached by phone. Representatives for Guo and Bannon refused to answer questions on the record.
Like his houseguests, Eurnekian has been publicly hostile to the Chinese regime, warning his native country’s left-of-center leaders in a 2019 interview against pursuing closer relations with the Asian giant.
But Eurnekian seems perfectly fine with doing business with the Beijing government himself. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in April, his company Corporación América Airports reported $65.7 million in outstanding loans from a group of institutions that included the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Meanwhile, in June, an energy firm Eurnekian controls acquired the entire Argentinian portfolio of Sinopec, the state-run oil exploiter, for a reported $240 million—less than one-tenth what Sinopec had paid for the 20-plus oil and gas fields a decade before.
However, public records penetrate the structure’s outer plating where conventional ballistics might fail. In disclosures to the Internal Revenue Service and authorities in California, the Rule of Law Society IV and its sister group the Rule of Law Foundation III reported receiving a combined $320,000 in donated rent in 2019 for their space on the third floor of the Eurnekian property. While floor plans and the certificate of occupancy allow for commercial uses on the first two stories, the third level and everything above is designated as living space.
What is not reported in these disclosures is exactly who is doing the donating. In fact, an employee of Guo’s family investment office, also located on the premises, pleaded ignorance in a 2019 court deposition when asked who paid the company’s rent.
This case, which grew out of a deal gone sour between Guo and a handful of GOP operatives, included allegations that the self-styled human rights activist and refugee from Communist China is in fact a spy working to undermine the government’s overseas critics. The presiding federal judge ultimately declined to rule on this question.
“The evidence at trial does not permit the court to decide whether Guo is, in fact, a dissident or a double agent,” the jurist wrote in his conclusions, noting the Shandong-born real estate developer and investor’s mixed history with the regime. “Others will have to determine who the true Guo is.”
But the proceedings turned up additional information about his operations on East 64th Street. In another deposition, reporter Sasha Gong—who lost her job at Voice of America, a U.S.-funded broadcaster, after Guo made false statements to her during a live interview—testified that she met with the businessman at his office on the building’s uppermost story, which the building plans reserve for the two largest bedrooms and their adjoining bathrooms. She also recalled that Guo kept the studio where he shoots conspiracy-addled dispatches for his GTV Media Group on the site, and pointed out to her an office belonging to Bannon on one of the top floors. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Gong said she was unaware the property was a residence, and claimed Guo had told her he owned the building, which is demonstrably false based on property records and the accounts of Avellaneda and Eurnekian’s assistant.
Guo’s GNews appears to have begun referring to the building as “the Himalaya Embassy” in June 2020, shortly after he and Bannon launched the New Federal State of China and its unregistered NGO affiliate, the Himalaya Supervisory Organization, with much fanfare in New York Harbor.
“I see cars pull up sometimes and see people escorted inside, and security parked outside,” Sarah Graham, an employee in an office nearby, told The Daily Beast. “It’s kind of weird.”
Shown photos, Graham told The Daily Beast she had never seen Bannon nearby, but recognized Guo by the red leather jacket and turquoise scarf he wore in a picture taken from his Facebook page.
A cashier at a store down the street recalled convoys of vehicles carrying on the pretense of a diplomatic mission taking over the block.
“There’ll be four to five cars with some kind of weird flag,” the woman, who declined to give her name, said. She subsequently identified that flag as the New Federal State of China banner hanging from the purported embassy.
Shortly after The Daily Beast reached out to the New York City Department of Buildings about the property the agency deployed an inspector to the location. The official recorded that a guard blocked them from entering the facility.
“At time of inspection, access to the embassy denied by unknown security person,” the regulator’s report reads.