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UN Warns of Money Laundering Risks Arising from Mekong Region Casinos

  • Richard Marley
  • September 26, 2022
  • 3 minutes read
  • 48
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According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the bond of China and Thailand with Myanmar is giving rise to criminal gangs in different corners of Myanmar. 

The increasing number of casinos in Laos has become a source of multiple financial crimes. From money laundering to drug trafficking, it involves several illegal activities. The United Nations warns that criminal gangs have been spread in the country, which results in an enhanced volume of narcotics across Asia. 

According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the bond of China and Thailand with Myanmar is giving rise to criminal gangs in different corners of Myanmar. The UNODC said that casinos are a major reason for financial crimes. The criminal networks are making Southeast Asia’s Mekong River countries home and expanding their illicit activities throughout the region. 

The agency identified that Zhao Wei, the owner of Kings Romans casino, has a 10,000-hectare swath of northwest Laos. According to the regional representative of UNODC, Jeremy Douglas, “There are many SEZs and autonomous territories with security and crime problems dotted across the Mekong, but the GT SEZ is one of the most prolific and notorious, and Zhao Wei and his group are clearly very well financed and able to move money despite sanctions.”

In 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department punished Zhao and his companies. VOA could not reach Zhao, but in previous media interviews, Zhao declined all the allegations and called them baseless for no reason. VOA requested comment, but the Golden Triangle zone or a Lao government spokesperson didn’t reply. 

The UNODC estimated that much of the Golden Triangle zone’s development is because of laundered drug profits and said that Zhao’s expansion plans offer new chances to launder more. 

The Royal Thai Police Foreign Affairs Division commander Khemmarin Hassiri said that more development in casino cities on Thailand’s borders with Laos and Myanmar would provide more opportunities for several crimes. 

“If there is something to facilitate illegal activities, especially for drug trafficking, we will put that on our top agenda,” he told VOA, “they are very famous areas for drug trafficking in the past,” he said of the borderlands and their economic zones. “But at the present time, they have everything — they have drugs, they have trafficking in persons, they have … communication fraud, they have online gambling.”

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