[In part one of this series we tried to present a rough outline of Steve Bannon’s orbit and how it served as a significant support structure of Donald Trump’s presidency. Part two will start looking into some of the dark revenue schemes linked to Bannon’s and Trump’s extended network.]
During Donald Trump's presidency the richest country in the world had one of the highest reported rates of COVID-19 deaths: a testimony to Trump's catastrophic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which, not falling short of a mass killing, must be considered a major crime.
Despite better knowledge, the former president was consistently talking down the danger of what he dubbed the “Kungflu” - an insidious narrative crafted by Trump operatives, aimed at killing two birds with one stone: 1) to downplay the severity of the virus by comparing it to a simple flu, so that businesses could stay open, 2) to vilify China by claiming that COVID-19 had sprung from a Chinese virus lab.
Furthermore, in absence of a COVID-19 remedy, operatives in Trump’s and Bannon’s orbit simply invented one, which the former president then helped advertise: the preventative malaria drug (hydroxy-)chloroquine; and as this article will demonstrate, made money from both, selling this ineffective Coronavirus remedy as well as medical supplies of shady provenance, such as COVID-19 rapid tests.
In a first step, we will identify the key people who made up and peddled the (hydroxy-)chloroquine hoax, a swampy cast of pro-Trump U.S. and Chinese operatives centered around Steve Bannon, arguably the most important and dangerous ideologue of the American far right. In a second step, we will identify some of those who cashed in on the snake oil and murky COVID-19 test sales, including Dustin Stockton, a Bannon-affiliate who was also a key organizer of one of the January 6, 2021, rallies that culminated in the storm on the Capitol.
Some of these operatives make also part of Bannon's fledgling anti-Chinese front. The emergence of such became obvious latest at the end of March 2019, when it was reported that Bannon was among a group of predominantly senior former intelligence personnel and policy advisors who had "revived a cold war-era advocacy organisation to take aim at China," called Committee on the Present Danger: China.
On its "About" page, the Committee states it is dedicated to “public education and advocacy against the full array of conventional and non-conventional dangers” posed by the Chinese Communist Party. The Committee roster includes notorious far-right operatives and Christian hardliners, such as the retired general William G. Boykin, a former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence who, as Bannon, has outed himself as Christian Zionist: a brand of Christianity that believes the return of the Jews to Israel in 1948 was in accordance with bible prophecy, kicking off the end times, Armageddon, and a second coming of Christ.
The first few members on the member list of the Committee on the Present Danger: China, including Steve Bannon and William Boykin.
The first Coronavirus cases were reported to the WHO at the end of December 2019 as a cluster of viral pneumonia cases of an unknown cause in Wuhan, China. Just two weeks prior, on December 18, 2019, the bound-to-fail impeachment trial against Trump started, in which Republicans were backing the mobster in an almost cult-like demeanor, before he was acquitted on February 5, 2020.
At that point the threat posed by COVID-19 was not quite evident yet, and Trump returned to the rudder of his pirate ship, to embark on a disastrous course of downplaying the severity and falsifying the origin of the virus, which certainly added to the skyrocketing number of reported COVID-19 deaths during his term, over 600,000 to this date.
While flooding the MAGA echo chambers with lies about the severity of COVID-19, in absence of a real remedy, it was resorted to peddling snake oil for Trump to save his face. During a press briefing on March 19, 2020, Trump began promoting the preventative malaria drug (hydroxy-)chloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID‑19. Trump claimed that the drug had been “approved very, very quickly” by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, that day the FDA stated it had not given approval for hydroxychloroquine as a COVID‑19 remedy, but was now allowing it under “compassionate use guidelines,” i.e. doctors were “legally allowed to prescribe it" for the "use of treating the coronavirus if they want,” according to a CNN article. One day later though, on March 20, 2020, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate to be used to treat patients hospitalized with the Coronavirus.
It would not take long for the hydroxychloroquine canard to be picked up, even by some medical professionals. For example, on March 16, 2020, the French doctor Didier Raoult announced in an online video that a trial involving 24 patients from southeast France supported the claim that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective in treating COVID-19.
Following reports of severe side effects in some patients, on April 24, 2020, the FDA issued a caution against the use of those drugs against COVID-19. But that did not deter Trump from publicly stating on May 18, 2020, that he was taking hydroxychloroquine preemptively, further stimulating the unprecedented worldwide demand and panic-buying of the drug, and thus causing severe shortages for its prescribed purpose of preventing malaria.
“I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine.” White house statement by Trump on May 18, 2020.
It was not until June 15, 2020, that the FDA finally withdrew the authorization for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure, finding that "in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits ... no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use."
We may never know who peddled the hydroxychloroquine soundbite to Trump that caused him to publicly endorse the drug, whether he really believed it to be an effective remedy, or whether he really took the drug preemptively himself. However, looking at the provenance of the hydroxychloroquine hoax, all points lead to Steve Bannon’s anti-Chinese front.
Based on retrospective analysis, starting from mid-November 2019, the number of coronavirus cases in the Wuhan province Hubei gradually increased, and were reported by Chinese authorities to the WHO at the end of December 2019, whereby an investigation was launched at the beginning of January 2020. According to the New York Times, in mid-January, the then still Hong Kong-based Li-Meng Yan “had been hearing rumors about a dangerous new virus in mainland China that the government was playing down,” and reached out to the influential media figure and anti-CCP grifter Wang Ding Gang, and his Whistleblower Movement.
Wang Ding Gang is behind Lude Media, which includes an influential YouTube channel and a “translation service.” Wang Ding Gang also heads the Whistleblower Movement, a platform for anti-CCP stooges coming up with outlandish and defamatory conspiracy theories about the Chinese government, as well as Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.
According to Wang Ding Gang's website, on January 19, 2020, he started working with Dr. Yan to report “the truth” about the coronavirus, i. e. COVID-19 sprung from a Chinese laboratory. On January 24, 2020, The Lancet published the first scientific study describing the virus. A mere five days later, on January 29, 2020, Wang Ding Gang, posted a video on his YouTube channel, where he praised the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 remedy, to this day presenting that as a sort of achievement on his website:
On January 29, 2020, Lude Media was the world’s first media to report that Hydroxychloroquine is an effective early treatment drug for CCP-virus. He explained why the combination of hydroxychloroquine + zinc sulfate + azithromycin is currently the best clinical drug for the treatment for CCP-virus.
Screenshot from a video on Wang Ding Gang's (left) influential YouTube channel, alleging that there exist "three hard drives full" of incriminatory material on the Biden family and the CCP leadership.
The “proof” is presented on a website called gwiki.net, and - cat bites its tail - aforementioned video. Gwiki.net belongs to the media empire of Guo Wengui (aka Miles Guo, aka Miles Kwok), a fugitive Chinese billionaire, and a close associate of Steve Bannon. Guo fled to the United States in late 2014, after learning he was going to be arrested under allegations including bribing, kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and rape, and apparently was not deported by Trump when he learned that Guo Wengui was a member of his Mar-al-Lago resort. At the time Bannon was arrested for fraud charges relating to the We Build The Wall campaign in August 2020, he had been a guest on Wengui's luxury yacht.
Steve Bannon (left) and Guo Wengui (right).
But not only seem Wang Ding Gang and Guo Wengui to have colluded in the promotion of the hydroxychloroquine hoax. In April 2020, “Lude [Wang Ding Gang] used Guo Wengui’s help to rescue Dr. Yan Limeng” and to bring her to the US, according to Wang Ding Gang’s platform. The efforts were successful, and once in the U.S., Li-Meng Yan hooked up with Steve Bannon, Guo Wengui, and consorts, where the doctor turned “whistleblower” joined their charade to plug the hydroxychloroquine spin, for example on GMedia. There exists a picture that was allegedly shot on September 10, 2020, and posted on GMedia, Wengui's outlet, which shows Li-Meng Yan, Steve Bannon, Wang Ding Gang and Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in one room, underlining that they were all in cahoots with each other. As evidenced by her appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show in September 2020, Li-Meng Yan also helped spin the hoax that the Chinese government intentionally released the Coronavirus, which, she alleges, was bio-engineered.
From left to right: Li-Meng Yan, Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Wang Ding Gang.
While the hydroxychloroquine hoax had been introduced by Bannon's network of Chinese émigré grifters, it was another Bannon-affiliate, Dustin Stockton, who took care of sourcing the snake oil.
The very day Trump had announced he would take hydroxychloroquine preemptively, on May 18, 2020, an article appeared on the Trump-affiliated America First Projects website, entitled “President Trump Is Taking Hydroxychloroquine.” It alleged, the author, “Dustin,” had sent an hydroxychloroquine “offer sheet” to the White House, indicating that his company, EastCann, would be able to source the medication.
Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence.
Dustin turns out to be none else than Bannon's boy Dustin Stockton, a high school dropout in his late 30s, roaming the country with his March for Trump / Women for America First caravan, together with fellow former Breitbarter and We Build The Wall grifter, Jennifer Lawrence. His startling career led him from stoned drifter, forklift driver, poker player, to founder of a far-right PAC and "chief strategist" of a Tea Party group, before he moved on to Breitbart, Gun Owners of America, We Build The Wall, and Stop The Steal.1
Stockton’s aforementioned article says:
America First Projects has been working on two massive stories regarding hydroxychloroquine. One about how an emerging markets cannabis fund in Singapore, EastCann, has been trying to connect Americans with a cheap supply of the drug from established manufacturers in India. It’s a story I know intimately as I am not only the Chairman of America First Projects, I am also the Chairman of EastCann and the Vice President of Global Business Development for America First Medical.
The offer sheet that Stockton’s EastCann allegedly had sent to the White House.
Furthermore, Stockton announced a big story about “who is behind the negative PR campaign and ‘studies’ to discredit Hydroxychloroquine.” That follow-up article actually materialized on July 28, 2020, which pointed to a “revelatory” video on Breitbart from the previous day, which Breitbart alleges was censored from Facebook and YouTube. The video showed a three hour long presser by “America’s Frontline Doctors” which was organized and sponsored by the Tea Party Patriots. Needless to say, this was all just fake indignation on Breitbart’s side to allege censorship, given the video, in full length, being still available on the Tea Party Patriots Facebook page. The video sums up all the tropes that the Trump orbit had floated, such as downplaying the Coronavirus by comparing it to a simple flu, while at the same time doing some product placement for certain already available remedies, including hydroxychloroquine.
As stated in Dustin Stockton’s America First Projects article, the company EastCann has been sourcing hydroxychloroquine, an extremely murky business that Stockton is chairing since March 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile. It was first an insurance company (EastCann Insurance) for medical Marijuana businesses before switching to sourcing Covid medical supplies as well as the fake COVID-19 remedy hydroxychloroquine in South and South East Asia.
Archived copy of the EastCann Insurance website.
According to a Marijuana business directory, “EastCann Insurance” was founded in 2015, providing “Commercial insurance packages for retail and medical marijuana businesses and related industries.” The address of EastCann Insurance used to be 259 Humphrey Street in Marblehead, Massachusetts, a home address in an upper-crust suburban neighborhood. If one looks up what is going on at that Massachusetts address nowadays: it houses another insurance business run by several members of the McDonough family, called Arts & Entertainment Insurance Brokerage LLC, which exists since 1983, and provides insurance services predominantly in the adult film business (videoinsurance.com).
Website of Arts & Entertainment Insurance Brokerage LLC located at 259 Humphrey Street in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
259 Humphrey Street in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
As the current EastCann website (registered in June 2019) indicates, EastCann shifted from the insurance business to COVID-19 medical supply sourcing, as is freely admitted on the new website:
… This website was previously created to showcase our initiatives and projects in the rapidly growing Cannabis industry in multiple countries, including the USA. As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the USA hard in the past few weeks, our team is putting 100% time, effort and energy in sourcing a few essential products worldwide and importing it into the USA to ease the spread of COVID-19 in our beloved homeland.
We currently have items such as 3-ply disposable surgical masks, N-95 masks, hand-sanitizers, COV-19 Rapid Test Kits and other hospital gears essentials available to purchase (in high volume only).
The EastCann website also states that the company is now located in Singapore, but without specifying an address, just an American phone number, and an email address. East Cann Pte. Ltd. does appear in a Singapore business registry, where it is specified that the company was founded on July 24, 2019, at what seems to be a residential address. There is one more business located at that apartment number (#02-106), a “cosmetic wholesaler” called ARTHASPA ORGANIK PTE. LTD., but there are no indications who runs the business.
EastCann has also been dealing with “COVID-19 Dual Antibody Serology Tests” by Zandcell, a Swedish company, a fact that is not at all apparent at first. Visiting the website there is no address given, only a map which points to Jackson, Wyoming. But visiting https://easycoronatest.org, it says in the footer: "zandcell.com. A Swedish Company.”
Screenshot of the contact page of Zandcell from June 8, 2021.
The company Zandcell belongs to the entrepreneur Michael Zand, who ominously described himself as follows on his now defunct Parler profile, a far-right Twitter copy, where he was sharing MAGA-related content:
Zandcell.com, Animal Lover, cryptocurrency, energy, entrepreneur, finance, forex, gaming, hacking, martial arts, medicine, MMA, P2P, politics, Space. RTs≠endorsements.
Screenshot from Michael Zand's Parler profile.
An American Zandcell LLC was registered on March 23, 2020, in Jackson, Wyoming, at an address which houses the “Majors Law Firm”:
125 South King Street # 2a
Jackson, WY 83001
According to the now defunct website of SMARTCHEK, one of the "exclusive authorized distributors" of Zandcell test kits, it was stated that the kits had
... been assigned with an FDA Emergency Use Authorization number on April 5, 2020. The FDA does not object to the use of this test.
On March 16, 2020, the FDA issued guidelines stating they do not intend to object to COVID-19 Dual Antibody Serology tests, as long as the FDA guidelines are followed.
Our tests are manufactured following all FDA guidelines in FDA compliant facilities. These tests are for professional diagnostic use to be administered under the supervision of a health care professional.
“FDA Acknowledgements” on the SMARTCHEK website. Screenshot from November 15, 2020.
However, if one looks at the FDA document attached it just says that the submission by Shepard G. Bentley of Bentley Medical Consulting LLC was received on April 4, 2020, and is pending. Thus, the evidence suggests that instead of an “Emergency Use Authorization number” a mere "submission number" [sic] was issued. Nonetheless, the company pretends that its test is FDA compliant, and that “the FDA does not object the use of this test.”
Meanwhile, in Sweden a court had ruled on May 4, 2020, that Zandcell cannot sell its test kits because of failing to meet “the legal requirements for medical devices under Swedish and European Union law.” The test was nevertheless CE-certified on September 11, 2020, according to Zandcell.
Yet another interesting detail: On the SMARTCHEK website one could download a purchase order pdf, which had in its header the logo of SMART 8 ENERGY. Apparently that company had offered Zandcell rapid tests on its website, which is now defunct.
Letter head of the purchase order available on smartchek.com.
However, although apparently having sold test kits in the past, Smart 8 Energy was not among the list of "exclusive authorized distributors" mentioned on the now defunct SMARTCHEK website: “EASTCANN PTE. LTD., SMARTCHEK and COVID AP are exclusive authorized distributors for ZandCell COVID-19 Rapid Test in North America.” A company called “COVID AP” seems not (yet) to exist, only the defunct SMARTCHEK and EastCann. And having a closer look at the respective websites, one finds that SMARTCHEK was sharing EastCann content on its site, indicating that the two companies may not have been competitors, but in the game together.
SMARTCHEK, one of the three “exclusive providers” of ZandCell COVID-19 tests, sharing EastCann content on their website.
Smart 8 Energy
Smart 8 Energy is a subsidiary of Mullen Technologies Inc., owned by David Michery, an upstart electrical car manufacturer, which has also been sourcing COVID-19 antibody and virus test kits and personal protective equipment. According to an article published on June 15, 2020, on the website of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:
… in May 2020, Mullen signed an agreement with Academy Medical, Inc. to sell its products to the U.S. Federal Government, including without limitation the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Homeland Security, Indian Health Services, and Department of Health and Human Services and their respective sub-agencies and facilities.
Mullen Technologies has just recently scored a $40 million tax incentive from the state of Tennessee for leasing a facility there.
David Michery’s business web.
FOIA Research has only investigated the distribution of Zandcell COVID-19 rapid test kits, not any other protective gear that EastCann claims to source. As of November 28, 2020, there were several websites where one could apparently make bulk orders of these tests, including https://easycoronatest.org/, https://smartchek.org/, and https://eastcann.com/. At that time the Smart 8 Energy web page selling test kits was already defunct, and as of June 2021, the SMARTCHEK website has become defunct as well.
Whether these test kits were indeed effective in diagnosing a COVID-19 infection could not be established. However, the fact that these test kits were apparently available for sale while an FDA approval process was still pending, followed by the decision of Swedish authorities to not approve the test, certainly raises some doubts. So does the apparent removal of traces to sales of the Zandcell test kit from the Smart 8 Energy and the SMARTCHEK websites.
Above examples may show Trump and his network were not only ruthless enough to massively downplay the severity of the virus for business to run as usual, while taking into account a record number of deaths. They also cashed into the pandemic by peddling snake oil as well as necessary medical equipment, while fully taking into account the latter may not comply with medical standards, and thus risking even more deaths. At the head of at least two of the key businesses involved, Zandcell and EastCann, are obviously murky far-right figures, in the case of Dustin Stockton a person closely affiliated with Steve Bannon. As a key figure in the new anti-Chinese front that has built up during Trump’s time in office, Bannon was instrumental in turning the virus into a political weapon by accusing China for its deliberate creation.
- 1. Dustin Stockton, Community Organizer: A Tea Party Story (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform Kindle Edition, January 17, 2013).