Transnational Money-Laundering Leader Pleads Guilty

US citizen Xizhi Li participated as a leader in a money-laundering network, pleaded guilty earlier this week. After a massive cross-agency investigation, the Department of Justice found out that the organization laundered millions of dollars. If found guilty, Li may be facing 20 years in prison.

Multi-Million Money-Laundering Scheme Uncovered

Earlier this week, a US citizen born in China pleaded guilty after playing a leadership role in a conspiracy to launder at least $30 million in drug trafficking money, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced. Court documents reveal that Xizhi Li, age 48, participated as a leader in a multi-year conspiracy using foreign and domestic front companies, bank accounts, a casino, as well as forged passports and other IDs to launder money on behalf of international drug trafficking organizations involved in cocaine. By receiving “contracts“, Li and his co-conspirators laundered drug proceeds by creating financial transactions concealing the source of the income. Upon completing the activity, the participants in the money-laundering operation would receive payment in the form of commissions.

According to prosecutors, Li was leading the money-laundering scheme when he lived in Mexico and Guatemala. Since the scheme spanned over multiple years, he allegedly became more involved and collaborated with multiple drug traffickers. As the Washington Post revealed, DEA documents reportedly point that the Sinaloa cartel was supplying the Memphis area with cocaine and Li was in charge of the money-laundering.

Leader Pleads Guilty, Co-conspirator Sentenced

Li pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money. If he is found guilty, he may be facing a maximum of 20 years in prison, as well as a $10-million forfeiture money judgment. The DOJ revealed that Li’s sentencing trial is set for October 26, 2021.

Tao Liu, age 46, from Hong Kong participated in the money-laundering scheme and helped Li. The DOJ revealed that Liu has accepted “bulk drug cash” from Li, which were afterward deposited by Liu to bank accounts provided by Li. However, as it turns out, Liu was being investigated for months, as he attempted to bribe a corrupt US Department of State official to receive US passports. He agreed to pay some $150,000 per passport as a part of the scheme. In reality, the corrupt official was in fact an undercover DEA agent. It was back in April when Liu pleaded guilty for playing his role in the conspiracy, as well as a bribe charge. This week, the DOJ revealed that he was sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Multiple Agencies Collaborated to Resolve the Case

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. from the Criminal Division of the Justice Department said in a statement that the defendants participated in a scheme laundering millions. He acknowledged that the money laundering was done on behalf of drug trafficking organizations via the global financial system, while the source of the income was concealed. Last but not least, Polite Jr. said that the latest sentence and guilty plea affirms the Justice Department’s commitment to taking down “the financial infrastructure of transnational criminal organizations to take the profit out of crime.

The defendants laundered millions of dollars on behalf of drug traffickers through the global financial system in a manner that concealed the source and nature of the illicit funds.

Kenneth A. Polite Jr., Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Justice Department

Acting U.S. Attorney Raj Parekh for the Eastern District of Virginia revealed that the prosecution is the result of significant collaboration between multiple agencies with a goal to “dismantle and hold accountable transnational criminal organizations that pose a significant danger to the public.” He acknowledged that the laundering of millions of dollars was completed via foreign and domestic bank accounts, falsified documents, a casino and even bulk cash smuggling. In conclusion, Parekh thanked all domestic and foreign partner agencies that worked closely on the case and helped unravel the multi-million money-laundering scheme.

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