Guo Meimei, a Chinese celebrity has been sentenced to five years in prison for running a casino. Meimei gained notoriety for ostentatiously displaying a jet-set lifestyle with her only employment being with a charity. She gained attention in 2011 when she posted photos online of her Maserati Sports car and very expensive handbags. Her postings also included pictures of her at upscale restaurants, luxury resorts and Macau’s casinos. These photos were reported to have reached almost 1.9 million viewers on Weibo.
At the time the photos appeared, Meimei reported she was the general manager under the Red Cross Society of China which is a state backed charity. The Red Cross is denying she had any link to them. The extravagant lifestyle portrayed by Meimei in the photos brought outrage and concern regarding the mismanagement of charity funds. These sentiments led to a plunge in donations for the Red Cross. Meimei retracted her statements connecting her to the Red Cross Society; however, the damage to donations had already been done. Since the association between Meimei and the Red Cross Society surfaced, the Society’s image has become blurred.
Meimei was arrested and prosecuted for running a casino. The arrest occurred one month after she made the suggestion on her blog that she “could play a role” in the 2014 World Cup Soccer tournaments. She was also fined 50,000 yuan. Meimei was not alone in the charges; Zhao Xialai received a two year sentence and 20,000 yuan fine. The Dongcheng District Court reported Meimei was running a casino in her private apartment. Her apartment is located in the city of Beijing and she was reportedly handling bets of three million yuan.
On the day hearings began Meimei appeared in a white blouse and black trousers. She wore glasses but no makeup, and her hair was caught behind her head. It was nothing like the images she had posted of herself on the internet. She admitted she had taken part in illegal gambling. She also admitted to inviting others to high stakes poker games at an apartment, but denied she owned or ran a casino. She agreed with many claims made by the prosecution. One of the claims was she had asked a group to play Texas Hold’em poker at the apartment.
At an apartment in the Chaoyang district the court reported Meimei had organized three different nights of gambling. The games involved the use of money totaling 2.1 million yuan, which translates into HK $2.5 million. The money was collected through a point of sale device during the nights of the gambling games, and was operated by Zhao. Meimei’s former boyfriend is also suspected of being involved and it was planned that he too would be arrested. It is believed he is who set Meimei up in the gambling operations as he is a foreigner known to be a professional poker player. It is also believed this former boyfriend used gambling as his source of income.
The three charges Meimei faced were; suspicion of running gambling sessions, engaging in prostitution and posting fraud statements on her blog during the World Cup Soccer Tournaments. Her confession was aired on the State run China Central Television where she also apologized for her extravagant lifestyle. She also apologized to the Red Cross Society for hurting their reputation when she claimed to work for them. Her apology extended to those who should have received help and didn’t because of the remarks she made.
Though Meimei had been arrested for the suspicion of prostitution, when she went to court she was not charged for them or the alleged relationship she was said to have had with a “sugar daddy” responsible for funding her lifestyle. Meimei had claimed she made money by working as a call girl. According to police she reported not charging less tha 100,000 yuan to each customer. According to the police she claimed there were many who would pay money to sleep with her for a night, no matter what price she asked. After one year’s time in jail, internet users posted they thought she was gaining weight. They claimed her face looked rounder, so it appears the food must be pretty good in jail.
Meimei’s online account, Weibo which is similar to Twitter, has almost two million followers. On her site she has also posted pictures of herself by a jet ski and a Lamborghini. She had plans to star in a film telling about her life, “I am Guo Meimei”, which she herself invested in and had begun production last year. Her arrest is a result of her carelessness in posting pictures to her website that were reported to the police and tipped them on her illicit activities.
When Meimei was arrested for charges on running an illegal gambling operation many were outraged by the attention she was given. Her arrest and consequent “trial by media” took away attention from bad news such as the earthquake in southwestern China and a deadly factory explosion. During this time, the Red Cross Society had to reach out to donors asking them to forget about Meimei and to please help those suffering from the earthquake in Yunnan.