Chinese money laundering criminals team up with Mexican cartels to menace US, officials warn Congress

Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Treasury Department warned members of Congress this week about the escalating threats from Chinese money laundering.

During a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill, U.S. senators heard repeated warnings about money coming into the United States from illicit means connected to China and how that money is funding illegal drugs, like fentanyl, from Mexico.

“Criminals based in the People’s Republic of China have emerged as the professional money launderers of choice for Mexican drug traffickers seeking to move their funds around the world,” Kemp Chester, with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told lawmakers.

Authorities say Chinese money laundering organizations have grown in recent years, with offenders able to wash dirty money and clean it within minutes, thanks to the help of new technology. Tuesday, DEA and Treasury officials testified that the opioid supply chain is financed in part by money-laundering operations that originate in China.

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CJNG Drug Cartel

The initials of the drug cartel “Jalisco Nueva Generacion” (CJNG) are seen in graffiti on a wall in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico, on Aug. 29, 2023. (Ulises Ruiz/AFP via Getty Images)

“The relationship between Chinese money laundering organizations and Mexican cartels provides access to well-established money laundering networks operating in most metropolitan areas in the United States,” said William Kimbell, chief of operations at the DEA.

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The Department of Justice recently announced a bust involving a Chinese money laundering cell with nearly $100 million in drug proceeds for a Mexican drug trafficking organization.

Cartel military weapons

Mexican marines escort five alleged drug traffickers of the Zeta drug cartel in front of seized weapons and drugs on June 9, 2011, in Mexico City. (Yuri Cortez/AFP via Getty Images)

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In March, a grand jury indicted Enhua Fang, a North Carolina woman hiding in Utah. Court documents claim Fang would receive requests from Mexican drug-trafficking organizations for bulk cash pickups in the United States.

Mexico drug smuggler in handcuff

An illegal drug smuggler is processed inside a jail in Nogales, Mexico, in 2011. (Alpeyrie/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

“For every gram of fentanyl sold into America, there’s a chemical supply chain for every dollar of illicit fentanyl sold in America. We must ensure that dirty money cannot be hidden in our country or on its way back into the pockets of cartels, terrorists and other transnational criminals,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said Tuesday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was in China in March and raised the issue of money laundering with Chinese officials. Yellen and her team have continued to participate in working groups in the United States to learn more to combat the problem.

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