US blacklists Chinese triad boss Wan Kuok-koi in latest round of anti-corruption sanctions

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Wan is known as a leader of the 14K triad, which the US Treasury has described as “one of the largest organized Chinese criminal organizations in the world,” engaging in “drug trafficking, illegal gambling, gambling. racketeering, human trafficking and many other criminal activities. ”

Under the sanctions, all assets held by Wan in the United States will be frozen and American citizens will not be allowed to do business with him.

Born in the Portuguese colony of Macau, Wan rose through the ranks of the triad to become one of the territory’s most powerful crime bosses, waging a bloody war against rival gangs, with bombing, gunfire and gunfire. knife. He was jailed in November 1999 on numerous charges, shortly before the colony was handed over to China.

Upon his release in 2012, Wan, who had always maintained his innocence, sought to reinvent himself – at least publicly – as a legitimate businessman, apparently supporting businesses in Cambodia and Palau. According to the US Treasury, he also became a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body to the ruling Communist Party.

In 2018, according to the Treasury statement, Wan established the headquarters of the World History and Culture Association of Hongmen in Cambodia. Also known as Tiandihui, or Heaven and Earth Society, the Hongmen is a fraternal organization dating back to the mid-1600s, with offices around the world.

In Hong Kong and Macau, it has been closely linked to the activity of the triad, and US sanctions accuse the 14K of “using the World Association for the History and Culture of Hongmen’s Broken Tooth as an effort. to legitimize themselves ”.

Suspected Criminal Links of Belt and Road

The activity attributed to Wan by the Treasury statement, particularly in Cambodia, resembles that of another alleged Chinese crime boss, Zhao Wei.

This week, CNN reported that Zhao – one of the world’s most notorious drug traffickers – was closely linked to a casino development project in Laos, apparently with the local government imprimatur.

Cambodia and Laos are both members of the Belt and Road Initiative, a massive trade and infrastructure project that is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship project. First announced in 2013, the project promises to build ports, roads and railways to create new trade corridors connecting China with Asia, Africa and Europe, with tens of billions of dollars of investments and loans.

Is an alleged Chinese drug leader investing millions in a port in Laos?

The project has come under criticism, especially from Western countries, who have accused China of hoarding developing countries with debts they cannot afford to repay. According to the US Treasury, the BIS also has links to organized crime.

“The Chinese companies behind BRI projects have several points in common: their management has links with criminal networks or actors involved in illicit activities in other parts of Southeast Asia, as well as in China; they have pre-existing organizations engaged in casinos and cryptocurrencies. “They are promoting themselves online for being associated with the Beijing BIS and displaying relationships with major Chinese government agencies; and all have created associations that actively seek to help Chinese nationals, ”the statement said.

CNN has reached out to the Chinese government to comment on Treasury claims regarding the BIS plans.

In addition to blacklisting Wan and the Hongmen World History and Culture Association personally, the United States also sanctioned the Palau China Hung-Mun Cultural Association and the Hong Kong-based Dongmei Group, which , according to them, were “owned or controlled” by Wan.

Dongmei, who could not be reached for comment, is a key investor in the Saixigang industrial zone project, according to the Treasury statement, a development linked to armed rebel groups in eastern Myanmar.

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed reporting.

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