The United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions on Wan Kuok Koi, a leader of China’s 14K Triad organized crime group, and three entities “owned or controlled” by him, the U.S. Treasury said in a statement.
The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) was targeting Wan, also known as “Broken Tooth,” as part of broader efforts to stamp out corruption across several countries in Asia and Africa, it said.
The statement said Wan was a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a largely ceremonial advisory body – a claim refuted by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Hua told a daily news conference in Beijing that Wan was not a member of the CPPCC, and that some U.S. personnel are “fabricating lies and taking any opportunity to smear China.”
The comments come as relations between China and the United States have deteriorated rapidly this year.
The United States also blacklisted one Liberian individual and one Kyrgyz individual under Executive Order 13818, which targets corruption and serious human rights abuse.
Under the sanctions, all property of the three individuals and companies that fall under U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.
“Corruption knows no borders,” said one senior U.S. official, adding that Wednesday’s actions were part of a broader U.S. anti-corruption drive that had seen sanctions imposed on over 200 individuals between 2017 and 2020.
The official said the latest actions should curb corrupt activity since all three individuals had “sufficient touch points with the U.S. or other financial systems”, but it was difficult to quantify the likely impact.
OFAC regulations generally bar Americans from dealing with designated individuals. A senior U.S. official told reporters non-U.S. actors who deal with them also risk being blacklisted.
The Treasury said it targeted Wan for the 14K Triad’s involvement in drug trafficking, illegal gambling, racketeering, human trafficking and other criminal activities.
The Treasury also designated three entities owned or controlled by Wan: Cambodia-based World Hongmen History and Culture Association; Hong Kong-based Dongmei Group; and the Palau China Hung-Mun Cultural Association, based in Palau.
It said the World Hongmen group had co-opted elites in Malaysia and Cambodia, continuing a “pattern of overseas Chinese actors trying to paper over illegal criminal activities by framing their actions in terms of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” and other major initiatives of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Treasury also blacklisted Raimbek Matraimov, a former deputy of the Kyrgyz Customs Service, alleging his involvement in a customs scheme in which at least $700 million was laundered from the Kyrgyz Republic.
It also designated Harry Varney Gboto-Nambi Sherman, now a prominent lawyer, Liberian senator and head of the Liberian Senate Judiciary Committee, who was indicted but later acquitted for his role in a bribery scheme in Liberia.