C H I N A | 2014 - present
Global criminal networks have flourished in the shadows of China’s rise. These stories are about money launderers, counterfeiters and drug dealers who have found ways to seamlessly move product and value across borders. They piggyback on the infrastructure of legitimate commerce, much of which now runs through China, and have overcome significant barriers of culture, language and trust to build transnational working relationships. Law enforcement is struggling to keep up.
After Donald Trump took office in 2017, I also started looking into the business activities of his family in China.
BEATS & TOPICS
T R U M P & CHINA
Jan 26, 2018 | XIANGYANG (AP)
The young woman, new to the grind of Chinese factory life, knew the man who called himself Kalen only by the photo on his chat profile. It showed him with a pressed smile holding a paper cup in a swank skyscraper somewhere late at night. Yu Chunyan and her friends didn’t know what to make of him. Some thought his eyes were shifty. Others said he looked handsome in a heroic sort of way. Yu was among the doubters. The daughter of factory workers, Yu paid her way through college by working in factories herself. She and thousands of other students had toiled through the summer of 2016 assembling iPhones at a supplier for Apple Inc., but they hadn’t been paid their full wages.
Jun 28, 2017 | GANZHOU (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: A worker with blood dripping from his head marked a low point in the tense, grinding life at a southeastern China factory used by Ivanka Trump and other fashion brands. An angry manager had hit him with the sharp end of a high-heeled shoe. Workers from the factory, including one current and two former employees who spoke to The Associated Press, reported overtime that stretched past midnight, steep production quotas and crude verbal abuse at Ganzhou Huajian International Shoe City Co. They said beatings were not unheard of, but the shoe attack, which all three say they witnessed last year, was violent ...
Jun 8, 2017 | GANZHOU (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: When the police called, Deng Guilian was at an indoor playground watching her 3-year-old. It was 2:19 p.m., Tuesday, May 30. The man on the phone said her husband had been picked up on suspicion of making illegal recordings and taking illegal photographs. He told her she didn’t need to know the details, he just needed her address so he could send a formal notification. “Could you please say that again?” Deng asked.
May 31, 2017 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: A man investigating working conditions at a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump-brand shoes has been arrested and two others are missing, the arrested man's wife and an advocacy group said Tuesday. Hua Haifeng was accused of illegal surveillance, according to his wife, Deng Guilian, who said the police called her Tuesday afternoon. Deng said the caller told her she didn't need to know the details, only that she would not be able to see, speak with or receive money from her husband, the family's breadwinner. China Labor Watch Executive Director Li Qiang said he lost contact with Hua Haifeng and the other two men...
Mar 9, 2017 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: China has granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, a move that offers a potential business foothold for President Donald Trump's family company and protects his name in a country notorious for counterfeiters. The trademarks cover everything from hotels and golf clubs to bodyguard and concierge services, public documents show.Trump's lawyers in China applied for campaign rallies,
Apr 18, 2017 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: On April 6, Ivanka Trump's company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world's second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago.The scenario underscores how difficult it is for Trump, who has tried to distance herself from the brand that bears her name, to separate business from politics in her new position at the White House. As the first daughter crafts a political career from her West Wing office...
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Feb 14, 2017 | SHANGHAI
There's a Trump toilet, a Trump condom, a Trump pacemaker and even a Trump International Hotel among hundreds of trademarks in China that don't belong to Donald Trump. But after a decade of grinding battle in China's courts, the president was expected to get an unlikely win this week: the rights to his own name. Trump's late victory in the fight to wrest back one sliver of his brand
D R U G S
Oct 08, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: For a few thousand dollars, Chinese companies offer to export a powerful chemical that has been killing unsuspecting drug users and is so lethal that it presents a potential terrorism threat, an Associated Press investigation has found. The AP identified 12 Chinese businesses that said they would export the chemical — a synthetic opioid known as carfentanil — to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Australia for as little as $2,750 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), no questions asked. Carfentanil burst into view this summer, the latest scourge in an epidemic of opioid abuse that has killed tens of thousand...
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Dec 21, 2016 | WASHINGTON (AP)
No one knew what was in the baggie. It was just a few tablespoons of crystalline powder seized back in April, clumped like snow that had partially melted and frozen again. Emily Dye, a 27-year-old forensic chemist at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Testing and Research Laboratory, did not know if anyone had died from taking this powder, or how much it would take to kill you. What she did know was this: New drugs were appearing in the lab every other week, things never before seen in this unmarked gray building in Sterling, Virginia.
Dec 19, 2016 | BEIJING (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: U.S. assertions that China is the top source of the synthetic opioids that have killed thousands of drug users in the U.S. and Canada are unsubstantiated, Chinese officials told The Associated Press. Both the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy point to China as North America's main source of fentanyl, related drugs and the chemicals used to make them. Such statements "lack the support of sufficient numbers of actual, confirmed cases," China's National Narcotics Control Commission told DEA's Beijing office in a fax dated Friday.
Oct 08, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
Before appearing in global narcotics supply chains , fentanyl and substances like it were viewed as potential chemical weapons. Scientists struggled to figure out how to package the chemicals so that they would incapacitate but not kill targets. Some highlights of those efforts:
Research into fentanyl as an incapacitating agent began in the 1960s and, by the 1980s, scientists were testing primates with aerosolized carfentanil, according to Neil Davison, author of "'Non-Lethal' Weapons." In 1997, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, working under a Department of Justice contract, reported...
Nov 03, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: Seizures of the deadly chemical carfentanil have exploded across the United States, with more than 400 cases documented in eight states since July alone, The Associated Press has found. Fueled by a thriving trade out of China, the weapons-grade chemical is suspected in hundreds of drug overdoses in the U.S. and Canada. An AP investigation last month showed how easily carfentanil can be purchased online from China. Of the 12 companies that initially offered to export carfentanil around the world, just three have stopped since the report was released. Nine continue to offer carfentanil for sale, no questions asked, and the AP identified four additional companies willing to sell the drug, some...
Nov 03, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: A few thousand dollars, a few minutes and a decent internet connection are all it takes to source carfentanil online from multiple Chinese vendors. Two Associated Press reporters, working independently, documented multiple offers from the companies listed below to export carfentanil, a substance so toxic it has been researched as a chemical weapon and described as a terrorist threat. These are not your typical drug barons. Many come off as solicitous business owners, starting emails with "Hi, dear," and writing scrupulous follow-up notes to drum up sales. They sent price lists and photos of their merchandise, and promoted their wares, in English, on major business-to-business websites.
Dec 10, 2015 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: The woman called herself Flaming Lee, an English name she picked when she was 10 years old, long before she got into the dirty business of counterfeit goods. Her job as a private investigator sometimes took her to client meetings at Dubai's seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel. Otherwise, she lived in apparent simplicity. There were few signs of the deception that shaped her life. Officially, Flaming Lee hunted counterfeiters for Swiss power technology giant ABB Asea Brown Boveri Ltd. Unofficially, she herself sold counterfeit ABB circuit breakers for export — the very things ABB was paying her to track down. It was a classic form of double-dealing in China's murky anti-counterfeiting ...
Dec 18, 2015 | WENZHOU, China (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: Alex Theil walked down a broken, weedy road in Rui’an, an auto-parts counterfeiting hot spot in China. Sweating, he passed a rusted-out truck, then paused before a workshop in a low concrete building. Inside, people worked silently at hulking, grimy machines. A man tossed shiny metal parts on the floor. “These are probably camshaft tensioners,” said Theil, an investigator who has helped Western brands fight counterfeiters in China for two decades. “They are very expensive. They are also quite crucial because if the tensioner breaks, the engine will probably overheat and there is a risk that it will actually end in a burning engine.” Many multinationals are losing the battle to keep potentially...
May 13, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: An anti-counterfeiting group said Friday it was suspending Alibaba's membership following an uproar by some companies that view the Chinese e-commerce giant as the world's largest marketplace for fakes. The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition told members that it had failed to inform the board of directors about conflicts of interest involving the group's president, Robert Barchiesi.
Earlier Friday, The Associated Press reported that Barchiesi had stock in Alibaba, had close ties to an Alibaba executive and had used family members to help run the coalition. The coalition, in a letter to members sent after the AP report came out, said conflicts weren't disclosed.
May 27, 2016 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: In 2011, a respected anti-counterfeiting coalition in Washington escalated its fight against the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, saying that its websites served as a 24-hour market "for counterfeiters and pirates" and should be blacklisted. Fast forward to 2016. That lobbying group, the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, called Alibaba "one of our strongest partners," welcomed it as a member and invited its founder, Jack Ma, to speak at its spring conference. Alibaba won — and ultimately lost— a friend in Washington using legal methods long deployed by corporate America: money and influence. A month after it became the first e-commerce company to join...
May 08, 2015 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: Kim Sbarcea knew exactly what she wanted. She typed "Tiffany Elsa Peretti mesh earrings" into Google and scrolled through impeccable photos of the delicate $450 diamond-shaped earrings until she chanced upon a pair for — deal of deals! — $32. The website, tiffany-outletsale.com, looked legit and Sbarcea assumed Tiffany & Co. wouldn't let an unauthorized site use its name. Besides, she could pay by credit card.She hit the buy button. In that instant, on a Saturday morning in 2011, Sbarcea's $32 was sucked from the living room of her house in Christchurch, New Zealand, into the global counterfeiting market. The money trail left by...
Jul 12, 2015 | SHANGHAI (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: The Chinese woman has a history of selling counterfeit luxury goods. She has been sued in the U.S. by eight luxury brands. She owes Chanel Inc. $6.9 million for selling products online under its name. None of it has stopped Xu Ting, a 45-year-old immigrant, from achieving a comfortable suburban life in San Diego with her husband and their 3-year-old son. Last year, she became a legal resident. China is not the only country with a counterfeiting problem. Most fakes are made in China, but they are sold in America, where counterfeiting is rarely prosecuted as a crime. Lack of cooperation with China makes it easy for counterfeiters to move their money beyond reach...
Mar 28, 2016 | ASHOOD, Israel (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: Gilbert Chikli was rolling in money, stolen from some of the world's biggest corporations. His targets: Accenture. Disney. American Express. In less than two years, he made off with at least 6.1 million euros from France alone. But he had a problem. He couldn't spend the money. A tangle of banking rules designed to stop con men like him stood between Chikli and his cash. He needed to find a weak link in the global financial system, a place to make his stolen money appear legitimate.
e found it in China. "China has become a universal, international gateway for all manner of scams," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Because China today is a world power...
Mar 29, 2016 | WENZHOU, China (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: The email seemed unremarkable: a routine request by Mattel Inc.'s chief executive for a new vendor payment to China. It was well-timed, arriving on Thursday, April 30, during a tumultuous period for the Los-Angeles based maker of Barbie dolls. Barbie was bombing, particularly overseas, and the CEO, Christopher Sinclair, had officially taken over only that month. Mattel had fired his predecessor.The finance executive who got the note was naturally eager to please her new boss. She double-checked protocol. Fund transfers required approval from two high-ranking managers. She qualified and so did the CEO, according to a person familiar with the investigation ...
Jun 05, 2015 | FLORENCE, Italy (AP)
AP EXCLUSIVE: Police in Florence wondered where all the money was going. Italy's economy was heading off a cliff, but its Chinatowns were booming. Luxury cars snaked past Chinese betting parlors and garment factories that hummed into the night. Chinese immigrants were buying up Italian coffee bars and real estate. But their prosperity was not reflected in local tax records."What do they do with the money?" said Pietro Suchan, then deputy public prosecutor in Florence. "Do they eat it?". The answer, after a four-year investigation by Italy's financial police, was no. They discovered that more than 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion) — the proceeds of counterfeiting, prostitution, labor exploitation...