31 Jul 2019
Australian law-enforcement and intelligence agencies are scrutinizing the activities of one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cousins as part of broad probes of organized crime, money laundering and alleged Chinese influence-peddling, according to Australian officials.
Among other things, police are looking into the alleged 2017 use by the cousin, Ming Chai, now a 61-year-old Australian citizen, of what they describe as a money-laundering front company that has helped gamblers and suspected mobsters move funds in and out of Australia, some of the officials said.
Investigators are also trying to uncover the source of money Mr. Chai wagered in high-stakes gambling sessions at the Crown Casino in Melbourne and are examining his links to various business partners, including one man under investigation for money-laundering, those officials said.
Over 18 months in 2012 and 2013, Mr. Chai bet about $39 million at the casino, according to Crown documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. In 2015, he was among Crown’s top 50 patrons and projected to bet $41 million, company documents show. The Journal doesn’t have more recent data.
There is no indication that Mr. Xi did anything to advance Mr. Chai’s interests, nor that the Chinese leader has any knowledge of his cousin’s business and gambling activities. People who know Mr. Chai told the Journal he often flaunted his familial link to Mr. Xi while chasing business opportunities.
The Australian inquiries have intensified amid a broader, politically driven push to take action under foreign-interference laws the country enacted last year, the officials said, primarily to counter what politicians see as Chinese meddling in Australian affairs. Beijing has reacted angrily to the laws.
Asked about Australian news reports on Mr. Chai’s alleged involvement in money-laundering, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing on Tuesday that the reports were “groundless accusations based on rumors” and an attempt to “smear China.”
By Philip Wen and Chun Han Wong, The Wall Street Journal, 30 July 2019
Read more at The Wall Street Journal
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