US declares Laos casino operators a criminal network


Associated Press/The News Tribune

Date Published

WASHINGTON: The United States is declaring the Zhao Wei network that operates a casino in Laos to be a transnational criminal organization.

The Treasury Department imposed sanctions Tuesday on four individuals and three companies across Laos, Thailand and Hong Kong, freezing any U.S. assets and prohibiting Americans from dealing with them.

Treasury officials say the Kings Romans Casino is a hub for trafficking in drugs, people and wildlife.

The department says the network stores and distributes heroin and methamphetamine, and smuggles endangered animals, including Asiatic black bears, pangolins, tigers, rhinos and elephants.

The casino is reportedly a draw for gamblers from nearby China and sells food and other products derived from exotic animals.

The sanctioned individuals include Chinese national Zhao Wei, co-owner of the three companies linked to the casino.