U.S. blacklists Chinese crime boss, others in anti-corruption sanctions

Flags of U.S. and China are displayed at American International Chamber of Commerce (AICC)'s booth during China International Fair for Trade in Services in Beijing, China

The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Wan Kuok Koi, a leader of China’s 14K Triad organized crime group and a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the U.S. Treasury said.

The sanctions also apply to three entities headed by Wan, who is also known as “Broken Tooth,” the agency said in a statement.

The United States also blacklisted one Liberian individual and one Kyrgyz individual under Executive Order 13818, which targets corruption and serious human rights abuse.

Under the sanctions, all property of the three individuals and companies that fall under U.S. jurisdiction is frozen.

“Corruption knows no borders,” said one senior U.S. official, adding that Wednesday’s actions were part of a broader U.S. anti-corruption drive that had seen sanctions imposed on over 200 individuals between 2017 and 2020.

The official said the latest actions should curb corrupt activity since all three individuals had “sufficient touch points with the U.S. or other financial systems”, but it was difficult to quantify the likely impact.

OFAC regulations generally bar Americans from dealing with designated individuals. A senior U.S. official told reporters non-U.S. actors who deal with them also risk being blacklisted.

Treasury said it targeted Wan for the 14K Triad’s involvement in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, racketeering, human trafficking and other criminal activities.

The Treasury also designated three entities owned or controlled by Wan: Cambodia-based World Hongmen History and Culture Association; Hong Kong-based Dongmei Group; and the Palau China Hung-Mun Cultural Association, based in Palau.

It said the World Hongmen group had co-opted elites in Malaysia and Cambodia, continuing a “pattern of overseas Chinese actors trying to paper over illegal criminal activities by framing their actions in terms of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” and other major initiatives of the CCP.

Treasury also blacklisted Raimbek Matraimov, a former deputy of the Kyrgyz Customs Service, alleging his involvement in a customs scheme in which at least $700 million was laundered from the Kyrgyz Republic.

It also designated Harry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman, now a prominent lawyer, Liberian senator and head of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, who was indicted but later acquitted for his role in a bribery scheme in Liberia.

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