BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese government housing vice-minister has lodged a US$10 million (S$13.62 million) defamation lawsuit against controversial billionaire Guo Wengui in New York over claims made by the exiled tycoon that she had engaged in graft and provided sexual favours.
Huang Yan, vice-minister of housing and urban-rural development, filed the complaint with the New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday, saying Guo's "false and outrageous" claims, made in a video published on YouTube in May, had caused her "severe emotional distress" and "mental anguish".
A copy of the filing was obtained by Reuters.
It is the first legal case brought on by an individual Chinese government official since the exiled tycoon began making accusations of high-level Communist Party corruption and represents an exceedingly rare instance of a senior serving Chinese government official pursuing legal action against an individual overseas.
Guo and his lawyer Josh Schiller did not immediately respond to requests for comment after business hours in New York.
Huang's complaint says Guo had falsely alleged that she helped real estate developers secure project approvals by providing sexual favours to Beijing government officials, and in turn received property assets from the developers who benefited.
"Guo has falsely and repeatedly claimed that Plaintiff Huang has engaged in various nefarious actions, including, but not limited to: sex scandals and corruption," the complaint said, adding that Guo's statements had damaged Huang's reputation among a large number of people, and caused many to "doubt her capabilities as a professional and a government official".
Guo's claims of high-level government corruption have come in an acutely politically sensitive year, with the Communist Party keen to ensure a key five-yearly congress to be held in the autumn goes off without a hitch.
Huang's defamation suit was filed by lawyer Kevin Tung, who is also representing a group of nine Chinese creditors who are suing Guo for US$50 million in owed funds.
It adds to a long list of legal actions taken against Guo in the United States, including by movie star Fan Bingbing, conglomerate HNA Group, real estate developer SOHO China and journalist Hu Shuli.
It also comes amid a sustained and coordinated Chinese government campaign to discredit Guo, since it requested an Interpol red notice to be issued in April and declared him a criminal suspect.