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 Treasury Action Targets Southeast Asian Narcotics Traffickers


11/3/2005

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today identified 11 individuals and 16 companies that are part of the financial and commercial network of designated significant foreign narcotics trafficker Wei Hsueh-kang and the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The names were added to OFAC's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).

"Wei and the UWSA's opium trafficking plagues the society and economy of Southeast Asia. We're acting to protect the U.S. financial sector from this network's tainted drug profits, as well as ensure Wei and his cohorts can't use the American financial system to move or launder their opium proceeds," said Robert Werner, OFAC Director.

Wei Hsueh-kang (Wei) was designated as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker pursuant to the Kingpin Act on June 1, 2000. Wei serves as a senior commander of the UWSA, which was subsequently designated as a drug kingpin on May 29, 2003. Wei is the subject of a U.S. federal indictment, unsealed in January 2005, from the Eastern District of New York on narcotics-related charges. The U.S. Department of State has offered a $2,000,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

The UWSA, with as many as 20,000 armed fighters located in Burma, is the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in Southeast Asia and was responsible for the production of more than 180 metric tons of opium in 2004. Many of its senior leaders are also the subject of an indictment unsealed by the Eastern District of New York in January 2005.

Among the key financial individuals designated by OFAC today are Warin Chaichamrunphan, who is one of Wei's wives, and her brother Winai Phitchaiyot. They act for or on behalf of Wei and the UWSA in various front companies, as well as materially assist in their narcotics trafficking activities. Several relatives of Warin and Winai are among those designated today. The 16 companies named, all of which are located in Thailand, were designated for their role in the financial network of Warin, Winai, Wei and the UWSA. Many of the designated companies have been raided in the past by Thai authorities in connection with an investigation into Wei's money laundering network.

Today's action freezes any assets found in the United States and prohibits all financial and commercial transactions between the designated persons and entities and any U.S. person.

The 27 new names collectively bring the total number of Tier I and Tier II designees under the Kingpin Act to 224: 57 drug kingpins worldwide, 11 individuals and 16 companies in Thailand and 140 companies and other individuals in Mexico, Colombia, Peru and the Caribbean.

This action is part of the ongoing interagency effort of the Treasury, Justice, State, Defense, and Homeland Security Departments, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to carry out the Kingpin Act, which was signed into law on December 3, 1999, and which applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers on a worldwide basis. The Kingpin Act was modeled after Executive Order 12978 which applies economic sanctions against narcotics traffickers centered in Colombia, and which is also administered by OFAC.

 

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