TIMES.KY

Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

US extradites naturalized Marshallese citizens in alleged bribery scheme

US extradites naturalized Marshallese citizens in alleged bribery scheme

The United States Justice Department unsealed an indictment Saturday against two naturalized Marshall Islands citizens accused of bribing numerous high-level elected and other officials in the Marshall Islands to gain government support for establishing a controversial semi-autonomous zone for foreign investment activities in this western Pacific nation.
Cary Yan and Gina Zhou were extradited from Thailand and arrived in New York City Saturday, U.S. Justice Department officials announced. Yan and Zhou, both naturalized Marshallese citizens who are also known as Hong Hui Yan or Chen Hong and Chaoting Zhou or Angel Zhou, respectively, had been in jail in Thailand since November 2020.

Yan and Zhou are charged with three counts of violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and two counts related to money laundering. “The U.S. Attorney announces extradition of two defendants charged with bribing high-level officials of the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” said an announcement Saturday of the unsealing of the indictment against Yan and Zhou issued the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York.

The charges are the result of a multi-year investigation by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department.

The charges refer to six Marshall Islands officials by number designation, not by name. Five of the six, who are described as “Official-1,” “Official-2” and so forth in the indictment, are alleged to have accepted bribes, while one is said to have refused to accept a bribe to support legislation to create the special investment zone for Rongelap Atoll. The charges state that Yan and Zhou paid bribes and also paid for travel and entertainment of high-level Marshall Islands officials for events related to supporting a foreign investment initiative in the Marshall Islands, including a public launch of the plan in Hong Kong in April 2018.

“As alleged, Cary Yan and Gina Zhou’s bribery scheme was designed to influence and manipulate the legislative process of the Republic of the Marshall Islands in order to benefit themselves and their associates financially,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams in a statement. “Yan and Zhou’s bribes blatantly flouted the sovereignty of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and its legislature, and the dedicated investigative work carried out by this Office and our partners signals that the Southern District of New York will not tolerate those who violate the integrity of democratic processes.”

U.S. law enforcement said Yan and Zhou engaged in numerous corrupt practices that aimed at subverting the legislation process in the Marshall Islands for their personal interests. Yan was the proponent in 2018 of the “Rongelap Atoll Special Administrative Region” or RASAR — a bid to set up a special foreign investment zone that would have been exempt from many of the country’s laws — that then-President Hilda Heine’s government refused to endorse.

In 2021 it was repackaged by Yan and proponents as the “Digital Economic Zone of Rongelap Atoll” or DEZRA and promoted as way to address economic development needs of this U.S. nuclear weapons test-affected island group that left most of Rongelap Atoll off-limits due to high radiation levels. DEZRA “is such an invitation to unscrupulous activities that I would be surprised if any reputable financial institution would want to deal with the government that condones this,” John Douglas, the chairman of the Financial Services Volunteer Corps, a group closely connected to the U.S. Treasury Department that has advised the Marshall Islands for many years, said in May 2021 as the DEZRA legislation was pending in the Marshall Islands parliament. Ultimately, the legislation was not passed.

“Yan and Zhou allegedly engaged in a multi-year scheme to bribe elected officials in the Marshall Islands and to corrupt the legislative process,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. “The department is committed to prosecuting individuals who participate in international corruption and undermine the integrity of democratic institutions and the free marketplace.”

FBI Assistant Director Michael J. Driscoll said in a statement, “As alleged, the defendants conducted multiple illegal activities to benefit their personal interests at the expense of the people of the Marshall Islands.”

The charges are filed in New York because Yan ran a non-governmental organization, the World Organization for Governance and Competitiveness, that was registered in New York in the 2016-2018 period that “held itself out as maintaining ‘special consultative status’ with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs from at least in or about 2016 to at least in or about 2018,” said the court charges. “Yan … held himself out to be the President and Chairman of the NGO.”

The NGO paid for the travel of several Marshall Islands officials to Hong Kong, said the charges. “A number of RMI officials attended the April 2018 conference, including Official-1 and at least two members of the Marshall Islands legislature with the ability to vote on the RASAR Bill if and when it was introduced ("Official-2" and "Official-3"),” the unsealed charges state. “The NGO paid for the travel of those officials to Hong Kong, and for their accommodations and entertainment while there. During the conference, Official-2 gave a speech praising the RASAR.”

When the RASAR legislation was introduced to parliament in 2018, “the defendants offered and provided a series of bribes and other incentives to obtain the support of RMI legislators for the RASAR Bill.”

It details a $22,000 bribe to “Official-4,” which it said Zhou called a “loan.” “Official-4 had officially sponsored the RASAR Bill in or about August 2018, and also took other actions to attempt to pass the RASAR Bill in 2018,” the charges state.

With the RASAR legislation pending in September 2018, the charges state that Yan and Zhou “offered a cash bribe to a Marshall Islands Official ("Official-5") to support the RASAR Bill, which Official-5 refused to accept.”

During this same period, Yan and Zhou paid a “cash bribe to Official-3,” the charges said. “Official-3 had officially sponsored the RASAR Bill in August 2018, and also took other actions to attempt to pass the RASAR Bill before and after this cash bribe was paid.”

Because the government of President Heine refused to endorse the RASAR legislation, it was never actually introduced to parliament, sparking an unsuccessful vote of no confidence by RASAR and other opponents in the parliament in November 2018. “In an email sent on or about December 1, 2018, to Cary Yan and Gina Zhou, the defendants, a Marshall Islands Official (“Official-6”), who had worked with Yan and Zhou in the 2018 effort to pass the RASAR Bill, promised Yan ‘revenge’ against the then-President of the RMI ("President-1"), who had successfully opposed the RASAR Bill,” said the charges filed in New York. “President-1” refers to then-President Heine.

Following the late 2019 national election, Heine lost the presidency when the parliament elected MP David Kabua president in January 2020. However, the DEZRA legislation, although introduced to parliament in 2021, was never adopted.
Newsletter

Related Articles

TIMES.KY
0:00
0:00
Close
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner
×