Proliferation of casino licences in Cambodia has increased the risk of money-laundering and other financial crimes in that country, says an advisory report from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and U.S. Department of Commerce.
“The UN Office on Drugs and Crime noted that between 2014 and 2019, casino licences in Cambodia increased 263 percent, though the government’s 2020 ban on online gambling curtailed this growth,” said the advisory note.
It added: “However, the increase in casinos over the past decade outpaced regulators’ capacity to monitor and police these establishments, attracting organised crime elements that invest in casinos and use them to launder money.”
In October 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial watchdog based in Paris, France, said Cambodia remained on the watchdog’s list of jurisdictions with “strategic anti money laundering [AML] and combatting the financing of terrorism [CFT] deficiencies”.
Cambodia “remains grey-listed” by the FATF “pending completion” of the country’s “action plan” on the topic, said the U.S. advisory note, carrying Wednesday’s date.
It added that the Cambodian authorities had recognised “vulnerabilities related to new casinos and other commercial enterprises in Preah Sihanouk province, which hosts most of the casinos”. That province is the location of the seaside town of Sihanoukville, where many new casinos have been based.
The U.S. government memo further stated: “The government established an inter-ministerial task force to investigate alleged money laundering and human trafficking. The task force has not issued a report on its findings, as of October 2021.”
Cambodia’s 2020 ban on online gambling and the “subsequent shuttering of many casinos and other entertainment establishments have reduced” sex trafficking and forced labour in the sector, “though the problem persists and will likely grow as the Cambodian economy recovers from Covid-19”.
The U.S. advisory notice added that an “example of criminal elements involved in Cambodia’s casino sector is Wan Kuok Koi, also known as ‘Broken Tooth’”.
Mr Wan served a long prison sentence in Macau after being found guilty of crimes including being a member of an organised crime syndicate in the city, money laundering, and loan sharking.
The note added Mr Wan had been “sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in December 2020”.
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Amount that each Macau casino operator paid for the circa six-month extension of their respective contract