The U.S. Department of the Treasury has placed Kings Romans Casino, a scheme located in north-western Laos, on its organised crime sanctions blacklist, it announced on Tuesday. The property is located in the province of Bokeo, near the border with Thailand and Myanmar.
The Department of the Treasury said casino owner Zhao Wei – a Chinese national holding a Macau passport – is suspected of heading a “transnational criminal organisation” operating from the gaming property. It also designated a network of four individuals, including Mr Wei, and three entities across three jurisdictions – Laos, Thailand and Hong Kong – “for materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of” the criminal syndicate.
“Based in Laos within the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, the Zhao Wei transnational criminal organisation 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,” the department said in a statement.
It added: “All assets of those [mentioned in the announcement] that are under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury said the Kings Romans Casino had allegedly been used to store and distribute narcotics for illicit networks – including for Myanmar’s United Wa State Army, the military wing of the United Wa State Party – and for money laundering activities.
“The Zhao Wei crime network engages in an array of horrendous illicit activities,” Sigal Mandelker, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement included in Tuesday’s announcement.
“We are targeting key figures in this transnational criminal organisation, which stretches from the Kings Romans Casino in Laos throughout Southeast Asia,” Ms Mandelker added.
Other alleged key actors in the Zhao Wei operation mentioned in the U.S. Department of the Treasury announcement included: Mr Wei’s wife Su Guiqin, also a Chinese national; Australian Abbas Eberahim, reportedly in charge of security at the Kings Romans Casino; and Thai citizen Nat Rungtawankhiri.
Two Hong Kong companies – Kings Romans International (HK) Co Ltd and Kings Romans International Investment Co Ltd – and one Thai-based firm were also listed for sanctions.
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"Our main focus is just making sure – and particularly within Australia – to the maximum extent possible, that we can have uniformity [among different jurisdictions]"
Chief executive of the Australia-based Gaming Technologies Association