Lao Casino Operator Rejects U.S. 'Transnational Criminal Organization' Designation

2018-02-05
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zhaowei-laos-02052018.jpg Casino operator Zhao Wei (L), a Chinese national who operates in Laos, conducts an interview with a local Lao television reporter, Feb. 4, 2018.
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Zhao Wei, a Chinese national who operates a casino in Laos over the weekend rejected the U.S. Treasury Department’s ruling that his network is “transnational criminal organization” involved in trafficking in drugs, people and wildlife.

In a statement issued in writing and by video on Saturday, Zhao called the U.S. designation “a unilateral, extraterritorial, unreasonable and hegemonic act of ulterior motives and malicious rumor-mongering.”

“This action has severely mislead international public opinion and created unnecessary worries among some investors and tourists,” said the statement, issued in Chinese and Lao.

“As an investor, all of my own activities and those of my staff and companies in all countries and areas are legal, ordinary business operations supervised by the legal authorities of the relevant countries that have not harmed the interests of any country or individual,” wrote Zhao.

After issuing the written statement on Saturday, Zhao repeated his denials in an interview with Bokeo Television.

Zhao’s response followed the Jan. 30 designation by the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, which declared the Zhao Wei network a “transnational criminal organization” (TCO) and imposed sanctions on Zhao and three other individuals and three companies across Laos, Thailand and Hong Kong.

“Based in Laos within the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GTSEZ), the Zhao Wei TCO exploits this region by engaging in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery, and wildlife trafficking, much of which is facilitated through the Kings Romans Casino located within the GTSEZ,” said the Treasury Department statement.

“The Zhao Wei crime network engages in an array of horrendous illicit activities, including human trafficking and child prostitution, drug trafficking, and wildlife trafficking, the statement quoted Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, as saying.

“We are targeting key figures in this transnational criminal organization, which stretches from the Kings Romans Casino in Laos throughout Southeast Asia,” she said.

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control is “designating the Zhao Wei network as part of a broader strategy to disrupt the financial infrastructure of transnational criminal organizations that pose a threat to the United States and our allies,” said Mandelker.

Zhao, co-owner and director of Kings Romans International (HK) Co., Limited and related firms, “maintains de facto control over the GTSEZ” and “engages in extensive bribery to facilitate money laundering, narcotics trafficking, and wildlife trafficking at the Kings Romans Casino,” said the U.S. Treasury Department.

The U.S. measure, which freezes any U.S. assets and prohibits Americans from dealing with the targeted people or companies, also named Zhao’s wife Guiqin Su, an Australian named Abbas Eberahim, and Thai national Nat Rungtawankhiri for “providing material support and acting for or on behalf of” Zhao’s group.

“The accusation is not true because the place is properly managed and operated. Furthermore, our government is also monitoring the venue,” A Lao official of the Bokeo Province administration told RFA’s Lao Service on Monday.

Reported by RFA's Lao Service. Translated by Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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