A Hong Kong resident has been jailed for seven years in the US for trying to bribe an American government official to obtain US passports for a transnational money-laundering network.

File photo: Colin Davis, via Unsplash.

Liu Tao was sentenced on Tuesday for helping the operation of a drug money laundering scheme. He tried to buy passports from a person he believed to be a corrupt US Department of State official.

The 46-year-old agreed to pay US$150,000 (HK$1.16 million) for each passport. The officer was actually an undercover officer from the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Five other people, all Chinese nationals, were also charged relating to the case. The leader of the scheme, Li Xizhi, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to launder at least US$30 million (HK$233 million) in drug trafficking profits.

Li used a casino in Guatemala, front companies, multiple bank accounts, fake passports and other false identification documents to launder money for drug-trafficking organisations in various countries.

Another defendant, Chen Jiayu, was sentenced to 60 months in prison last month and was ordered to forfeit US$2.8 million (HK$21 million).

Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia. Photo: US Department of Justice.

The US Department of Justice was also awaiting the extradition of another defendant, Chen Jianxing, after he was arrested in Peru.

Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh said on Tuesday: “This prosecution demonstrates the enormous value of collaborating with agencies across the government and with our international partners to dismantle and hold accountable transnational criminal organizations that pose a significant danger to the public.”

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.