Another Chinese National Sentenced For Aiding Drug Problem In U.S.

( )- A Chinese national was sentenced to seven years in prison on Tuesday after being found guilty of a money-laundering scheme to move tens of millions in drug money.

On Monday Li Xizhi, 48, pleaded guilty to money laundering. He was one of six Chinese nationals charged in 2020 in a transnational money-laundering network with tentacles spanning across Belize, China, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States.

According to the Department of Justice, Li had a leadership role in the network which included foreign and domestic front companies.

In its 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment report published in March, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had warned about Chinese money laundering groups. Citing law enforcement reporting, the DEA reported that there has been an increase in these Chinese money launderers working with Mexican transnational criminal organizations to move and launder drug money.

The Asian money laundering organizations generally involve transferring funds between China and Hong Kong using front companies to facilitate the movement of money internationally.

According to the indictment, since 2008 Li Xizhi’s network laundered at least $30 million in drug money – mainly from the trafficking of cocaine. Though born in China, Li lived mainly in Mexico and Guatemala. This proximity gave Li the opportunity to build close relationships with drug traffickers and organizations in such countries as Columbia, Guatemala and Mexico. He secured so-called “contracts” to move their drug money for which he was paid a commission.

Among the drug traffickers Li laundered money for was the Central American cartel led by Marisela “Iron Lady” Flores-Torruco. Li also had ties to the infamous “El Chapo,” Joaquín Guzmán, former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.

As part of his laundering operation, Lie purchased a casino in Guatemala, registering it under the alias Francisco Ley Tan. It was at this casino where Li and his co-conspirators conducted meetings with drug traffickers. Under this alias, Li also obtained bank accounts in Miami.

The scheme also used accounts in CCP state-owned financial institutions, including the Agricultural Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. These Chinese accounts were used to both receive and transact money from drug sales – including the sale of cocaine within the United States.