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The empire of the Chinese casino mogul is about to expand in Laos – The Diplomat


A view of the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos seen from across the Mekong in Thailand.

Credit: Sebastian Strangio

A punished, secret Chinese casino tycoon is looking to expand his economic empire in Laos, executing plans to develop tourism projects and other business ventures in the regions. remote areas of the country.

Based on a report Radio Free Asia (RFA) service of Laos, one Indispensable portal Before news from the communist-ruled country, businessman Zhao Wei visited Saravan province in southern Laos and met with the provincial governor “to discuss the possibility of developing an airport and investing in some development projects. development of agriculture and tourism. “

The RFA quoted local officials as saying that Zhao had visited lands in a district on the border with Vietnam, along with land surveyors. “They conducted a survey on a strip of land near the Laos-Vietnam border to grow commercial crops,” said an official to speak.

Zhao Wei is the chairman of the Kings Romans Group, and in 2007 was granted a 99-year lease for the so-called Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone (GTSEZ), a resort and gambling area. remote in the northwest of the country, close to the intersection point of the borders of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Before moving to Laos, Zhao, an entrepreneur from Heilongjiang province, China, is known to have previously run casinos in Macao and in Mong La, a town on the border between Yunnan’s province. China and a rebel-controlled area in Myanmar have become infamous. as a hub for Chinese gamblers to jump across borders.

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The GTSEZ, which existed under the de facto sovereignty of Zhao and his business and dominated by the towering apartment towers and giant golden crowns of Kings Romans Casino, was similarly set up for collection. attracts tourists from China, where gambling is prohibited outside Macao.

Kings Romans also attracted attention for being accused of engaging in a series of criminal businesses. In January 2018, US Treasury Department impose sanctions about Zhao and his three associates for their involvement in “drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, bribery and wildlife trafficking, most of which is done through Kings Romans Casino.”

The sanctions do not seem to do much to stop the expansion of the GTSEZ, where apartment buildings continue to sprout on the Mekong. Last October, Zhao earthquake development of a $ 50 million port on the Mekong section upstream of the GTSEZ is tightly controlled. A Expert predict that the new port “will mostly facilitate trade, legal and illegal, goods from China will bring Chinese trade interests, legal and illegal, in Laos,” he said. to speak.

In addition to the probable new business project in Saravan, the RFA report noted that Zhao has also given comments to a number of other businesses, including tourist attractions in the Houaphanh province, a plus base area. old estate in the northwestern part of Laos, and close to the Plain of Jars, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Xieng Khong Province.

Zhao’s rise demonstrates China’s growing economic footprint in Laos, a byproduct of the close economic integration between the two countries, that over the past two decades has transformed the landscape. material capital Vientiane and northern provinces of the country. It also includes close ties of Chinese businessmen, some questionable issues, with the ruling Lao government.

All recent reports suggest that, lubricated by the backing of a corrupt and permissive party state, Zhao’s economic empire will continue to steadily expand into undeveloped corners of the country. Laos economy.

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