Posted on: January 25, 2021, 12:05h.
Last updated on: January 25, 2021, 12:44h.
Authorities in the Netherlands have arrested a man alleged to be one of the world’s biggest drug kingpins, dubbed “Asia’s El Chapo” by the media.
Chinese-born Canadian citizen Tse Chi Lop, 56, is reputed to be the leader of “the Company,” a triad super-syndicate formed by an alliance of the top five triad gangs: the 14K, the Wo Shing Wo, the Sun Yee On, the Big Circle Gang, and the Bamboo Union.
The Company is known to have infiltrated casino junket operations and has, in the past, used casinos to launder its ill-gotten gains.
The triad conglomerate, also known as the Sam Gor syndicate, has flooded the illegal drug trade in recent years with synthetic products like methamphetamines and fentanyl. These are mass-produced in factories based in the lawless Golden Triangle region, where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand, China, and Laos meet.
World’s Most Wanted
A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) study says Southeast Asia’s crime groups net more than $60 billion a year. The Company is believed to launder most of its money through new businesses in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region, including casinos, hotels, and real estate.
But in 2013, a Hong Kong-based junket operator and money launderer named Roy Moo was convicted in Australia of washing hundreds of millions of the Company’s drug money through the Crown Casino Melbourne.
Crown Resorts is currently in danger of losing its license in New South Wales because of historic anti-money laundering violations. Regulators say that led to the casino’s exploitation by criminal gangs.
Australia is a huge market for the Company. The group is believed to have been responsible for up to 70 percent of all drugs trafficked into Australia over the past 20 years.
Tse is understood to have been arrested at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport following a request from Australian federal police. He is expected to be extradited to that country.
Who is Tse Chi Lop?
Tse is a former member of the Big Circle Boys, a group originally from Southern China that spread rapidly across Canadian cities in the 1990s. The Big Circle Boys are thought to be largely responsible for British Columbia’s recent casino money laundering controversies, which saw the sector dubbed a “laundromat for organized crime” in a report commissioned by the provincial government.
In 2000, Tse was sentenced to nine years in prison in the US for drug trafficking. The judge showed leniency after the defendant expressed “great sorrow” for his crimes and vowed to go straight. He was released in 2006.
Four years later, Tse appeared on the radar of Australian authorities, which have been tracking him ever since. In recent years, he is believed to have moved frequently between Macau, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
Tse reportedly travels with a bodyguard of Thai kickboxers. He gambles regularly in casinos, and once lost €60 million ($72 million) in one night playing baccarat in Macau, according to Reuters.