U.S. Sanctions Convict Who Invested in China-Backed Projects for Corruption
10 Dec 2020

The Trump administration, using its anticorruption powers, sanctioned three men including a convicted Chinese gangster who has set up businesses seeking to benefit from Beijing’s flagship transcontinental infrastructure-building program.

Wednesday’s action against Wan Kuok Koi, also widely known as “Broken Tooth,” comes as the administration escalates a pressure campaign against China in its last months in office.

The U.S. Treasury Department accused Mr. Wan of using business and other activities to try to legitimize the organized-crime gang he has reputedly led and piggyback on China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative to build infrastructure across Eurasia and other parts of the world.

The U.S. Treasury also sanctioned a top Liberian politician for allegedly bribing judges and other people and a former senior Kyrgyz official for alleged involvement in money-laundering. The sanctions all came under the so-called Global Magnitsky powers, named after a Russian whistle-blowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail after accusing the government of corruption.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Kyrgyz and Liberian missions to the United Nations.

The U.S. Treasury’s blacklisting of Mr. Wan serves the administration’s broader effort to try to discredit China’s communist government amid growing tensions between the two world powers over global influence, trade, technology and national security issues.

Wednesday’s action marks the third straight day of sanctions levied against Chinese officials, companies and citizens, as the Trump administration casts the Beijing as a malign global influence and national security risk.

Last week, the Department of Defense also added several major Chinese state-owned companies, including China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. to its list of companies identified as Communist Party firms supporting the country’s military. That blacklisting prohibits U.S. military contracting and exposes the firms to potential sanctions by the Treasury and export controls.

The Treasury Department announcement, timed for International Anti-Corruption Day, alleged that Mr. Wan tried to associate himself with Beijing’s infrastructure program to further illegal activities. It didn’t accuse the Chinese government of knowledge of his actions.

Mr. Wan rose to infamy amid a surge of gang violence in the gambling enclave of Macau in the late 1990s. He was arrested shortly before Portugal handed the territory on China’s southern coast back to Beijing in 1999 after some 400 years as a colony. Mr. Wan, who U.S. officials say heads the 14K Triad organized-crime group, spent 14 years in a Macau prison for triad membership and money laundering, among other crimes.

More recently Mr. Wan surfaced as a businessman in Malaysia, Cambodia, Palau and Myanmar.

In its sanctions announcement, the Treasury Department said Mr. Wan controls an organization based in Cambodia called the World Hongmen History and Culture Association, which officials said was an effort by the 14K Triad to legitimize itself.

By Ian Talley, The Wall Street Journal, 9 December 2020

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