America: a welcome home for corrupt foreign politicians and businesspeople

Some of the most notorious criminals of South and Central America and China have resettled to the USA with money they looted from their countries' treasuries or defrauded their fellow citizens of.

Many of these people are fleeing jurisdictions where torture is routinely practiced and are able to qualify for asylum. Others are able to use their loot to qualify for investor visas by sinking capital into shell companies or legitimate investments.

The rogues' gallery includes former Panamanian president, the billionaire Ricardo Martinelli, who is charged with embezzling millions from programs that were supposed to help feed poor children before establishing residence in Miami.

Other people under indictment or fleeing conviction include former Colombian presidential candidate Andres Felipe Arias, who was convicted of funneling millions intended for poor farmers to his rich backers; the children and grandchildren of former South Korean dictator Chun Doo-hwan who used the $200M that Chun extorted in bribes from large Korean companies like Samsung and Hyundai to establish residence and set themselves up in the USA.

There's also a host of Chinese criminals living in the US, to the great chagrin of the Politburo.

The Justice Department launched an investigation only when it was tipped off by Chinese authorities. In January 2014, a federal grand jury indicted Zhao and her ex-husband, Qiao, for immigration fraud, money laundering and internationally transporting stolen funds. Zhao was arrested and released on bail. Federal authorities are pursuing Qiao, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

A trial has been set for February 2017. U.S. government attorneys have filed asset forfeiture cases to recover real estate linked to Qiao and Zhao in Flushing, New York, and Monterey Park, California.

In April 2015, Qiao appeared on the Chinese government's list of 100 "most wanted" officials who fled abroad after being accused of crimes such as bribery and corruption. He and 39 other government officials and state-owned enterprise leaders on the list allegedly fled to the United States.

The list, called "Operation Skynet," is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, which has vowed to take down what Chinese officials describe as corrupt "tigers" and "flies" within the country's ruling Communist Party.

Fengxian Hu was another fugitive on China's list. A former army singer and radio broadcaster, Hu headed the state-owned broadcasting company that had a joint venture with Pepsi to distribute soft drinks in Sichuan province. In 2002, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported that Pepsi had accused Hu of looting the joint venture and using company funds to buy fancy cars and go on European tours.

[Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo and Selina Cheng/Propublica]

(Image: Chun Doo-hwan, 1983-March-11, PD)