The only thing tougher than moving illegal drugs across borders is getting the profits back to Mexico’s cartels

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Small cells of Chinese criminals have upended the way narcotics cash is laundered:

The only thing tougher than moving illegal drugs across borders is getting the profits back to Mexico’s cartels, U.S. officials said. Cash is heavy, and transporting it exposes traffickers to lots of risk. Putting it into the banking system is perilous, too. The U.S. and Mexican financial systems have been geared to detect dirty money.

Prosecutors told the court that Gan and his accomplices sidestepped these obstacles by first moving the U.S. cash offshore to China, then on to Mexico. Lim was a linchpin connecting both sides of the Pacific. In her November 2019 plea agreement, Lim admitted to laundering, with Gan and Pan Haiping, about $48 million in drug cash between 2016 and September 2017. She took a 0.5% commission, the agreement said.

Lim testified at Gan’s trial that she had two jobs. The first was collecting drug money in U.S. cities such as Chicago and New York from cartel contacts, typically anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million at a time. She would wait in a public place, armed with a burner phone, a code name and the serial number of an authentic $1 bill. Mexican cartels would pass on her details to their dealer contacts, who would call Lim’s burner phone and use the code name to identify themselves. At the rendezvous point, Lim would give them the $1 bill with the corresponding serial number as a “receipt” to verify the handoff had taken place, Lim said at trial.

Lim’s other job was recruiting businesses in the Chinese diaspora to help them make that cash disappear, Lim and prosecutors said.

Some U.S.-based Chinese merchants have long engaged in off-the-books currency “swaps” to avoid hefty bank fees. Such transactions are illegal in the United States, American authorities said, if they are used by companies routinely to skirt the formal banking system or to operate an unauthorized money transfer business. In some cases these informal, hawala-style transactions are used to help wealthy Chinese move money clandestinely out of China, in violation of that nation’s currency controls.

The operation run by Gan and Pan Haiping grew to include at least three Chinese merchants in New York, who were paid commissions to participate, Lim told the court. The names of the Chinese merchants were not revealed at Gan’s trial, and it’s unclear if they knew of Lim’s links to drug trafficking.

Prosecutors at trial presented testimony, evidence and graphics showing how the transactions worked. At their simplest, authorities said, that process worked as follows: Lim would arrive at one of the merchants with, say, $150,000 in cartel cash. With the businessperson observing, she would open a currency converter app on her smartphone to obtain the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Chinese yuan. She would also hand over the details of a bank account in China given to her by Gan. In what’s known as a “mirror transaction,” the Chinese businessperson would take possession of the $150,000 in U.S. currency while simultaneously transferring the equivalent in Chinese yuan from their own account in China to the bank account number provided by Gan.

The result was that a foreign transfer of funds had been made without involving a U.S financial institution – or the accompanying digital fingerprints. The Chinese business had effectively used yuan from its China-based bank account to purchase cash dollars now on hand in the United States; it earned a commission for its trouble while avoiding bank fees and U.S. government scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Gan had converted U.S. drug dollars into Chinese currency now sitting in a Chinese bank. The only contact with the financial system – a domestic transfer between two accounts in China – would be unlikely to raise red flags with Chinese banking authorities unaware of the money’s provenance.

The crime ring used various Chinese banks for the operations, including the Bank of China, according to WhatsApp messages exchanged between Gan and Pan Haiping. The messages were extracted from Gan’s iPhone by Homeland Security Investigations agents after his arrest, and key excerpts were read out aloud by prosecutors at trial, according to court transcripts.


“When there is need by the cartels for cash to be laundered, and there is demand for cash from the Chinese, you have a perfect marriage made in heaven,” Im told Reuters. “The Chinese brokers are very important to the Mexican and Colombian cartels.”


Chinese money launderers are squeezing out Mexican and Colombian rivals by undercutting them on price by as much as half, U.S. officials said. The Chinese operators have been able to do that because they levy fees on both sides of each transaction. They impose fat commissions as high as 10% on Chinese citizens eager to get money out of China. That allows the Chinese money brokers, in turn, to charge traffickers nominal fees of just a few percentage points. The money launderers still turn a handsome profit while locking in a steady supply of coveted dollars and euros from cartel customers.


  1. Kirk says:

    There’s always been a strong thread of criminality in China’s culture, mostly due to the totalitarian governance they’re so fond of. You can find historical parallels to this sort of thing back as far as we have records. Last time around, it was the Triads and opium that drove the train around the Chinese Imperial government not wanting reciprocal trade with the rest of the world, which was wreaking havoc with the world silver and gold markets.

    Communism changes little–The only thing it really does is suppress decent civilized society in the nations it takes over. Look at Russia–Where there was once a nation of reasonably honest people who had morals, today you’ve got a nation of criminals who stem from having adapted to communist ethics and ideals. Russia may never recover its pre-Communist culture, and likely will retain the markers of communism going forward, much as they still retain signs of having been under the Golden Horde.

  2. N.N. says:

    /Yawn/ Kirk.

    Hate to break it to you, but there is a strong thread of criminality everywhere. Your precious Anglos are as involved in the drug trade as the Asians and Latinos. That you don’t see it must be due to the hypocrisy Anglos are so fond of.

  3. VXXC says:


    Oh, dear, you misunderstand the Anglos. Don’t worry, for the longest time they misunderstood you…a misapprehension that is ending.

    I’m actually a Celt of Fenian Bloodline, here in America of course.

    You have the Anglos quite wrong. Oh, sure, of course there are Anglo Criminals. But it’s not core to their culture. That’s why it’s such a wonderful place to live, and why people from other cultures sell their children into prostitution and slavery to come here, as opposed to the Anglos — and of course you really mean white Americans like me — the Anglos and Americans are absolutely not desperately piling themselves into connexes and what not to come to your pastoral sh*tholes.

    Short version: it’s not a criminal culture, it’s not a criminally run society. Even now…

    Or at least it wasn’t until we let you lot in.

    Speaking of which, you may be Triumphant now; surprise attacks do have that effect.

    It’s very easy to take advantage of the Americans. For centuries we went around with our doors unlocked, in many places such as where I live we still do. America is the peak high-trust culture, a process that began in Germania 2000 years ago.

    Speaking of Germany, yes, what they did a short time ago still looks evil. But it doesn’t look crazy. Not anymore.


  4. Harry Jones says:

    The only people fond of totalitarian governance are the ones in charge. That said, certain cultures have a disconcerting tolerance for bad government.

    Every society gets the worst government it is willing to put up with, or the best it is capable of establishing — whichever is worse. America was founded by tar and feathers. The ballot came shortly afterward, and then the Constitution. France proved better at getting rid of a bad government than at establishing a good one.

  5. N.N. says:

    Dear VXXC,

    The rest of the world wholeheartedly wishes that Anglos stay in their paradise rather than slaughtering the rest of us wantonly, in ‘defence of their freedoms’, so far from their borders.

    Murder is, of course, not criminal to the brazen Anglo.

    VXXC, sir, why the urge to die in the boonies so that Brahmin ‘aunties’ can inherit your lands? So not just hypocritical, but prone to sentimentalist self-sacrifice. No wonder your people are dying.

    Dear Harry Jones,

    What is the point of a good government that destroys other governments in self-righteous crusades while its natives are repossessed, drugged and fattened up for slaughter by Globalist Capitalists?

    You have a bad government. Your high debts just blind you from seeing it.

  6. Harry Jones says:

    I used to explain myself patiently to unhinged, angry people. That rarely helped.

    As long as all my enemies are stupid, I won’t live in fear. It’s the smart ones that keep me up at night.

  7. VXXC says:

    Dear N.N,

    I think we may have a rare point of agreement. I have no wish to die in Boonies other than my own, I mean American soil. Fighting only for ourselves.

    You are correct that our ah, ‘elites’ do send us abroad on mad and hopeless adventures. This is because they are hopelessly mad.

    As to why we do fight on: because that’s the only way to stay in the game, have any ability to effect any outcome, and hope for clearer skies. When your near enemy is insane, hopelessly so [also personally cowardly BTW] you can reasonably hope for clearer skies.

    I wish nothing more than our people to return to our lands, if we have the 5 Eyes nations [US,UK,AU,NZ,CA] we have no need of more allies.

    This will allow your people NN wherever you are to slaughter and genocide each other in peace, fine by me and fine by us. An impressive record of both along with levels of repression we can barely comprehend and do not envy were amassed by your people long before we even existed NN – no matter where you are…unless you’re an Eskimo. <those are the only known innocents on earth NN.

    Give me your region, I'll gladly take any 100-year period and counter-denounce you, if you like.

    But here we digress NN: the main article was about crimes being committed by foreigners on American soil. They must leave.

    And really — with some experience in the matter — there has never been a better time to run for your lives than from now to January 20th, 2021.

    Because I'm sure you've heard 'you have to go back' yes yes, tiresome I know. You may of course tell our wayward expats the same thing if you like.

    But about 12:01 ET on 01/20/2021, you just have to go. We won't care about back, or …any strangers on our soil….no, we really won't.

    Oh nothing will happen on Jan 20.

    Except that is the expiration date for laws in America. Really. No Constitution, no vote, no access to the courts= no laws.

    If you don't believe me ask an American policeman.


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