China busts seafood smuggling ring with American ties

Published on
August 30, 2016

The past week has seen Chinese authorities attention centered again on seafood smuggling, with authorities in the port and seafood processing hub of Qingdao claiming they broke up a Chinese-American gang that has smuggled 5,000 tons worth RMB 230 million (USD 34.5 million, EUR 30.9 million) worth of seafood into the county over the past two years, including frozen shrimp, scallops and king crabs.

The public imagination has been grabbed by the presence in the smuggled batches of “nuclear seafood” from the Fukushima region of Japan, in contravention of a 2011 decree banning imports of seafood from the region around the damaged Japanese nuclear plant. Highlighting the presence of the Japanese seafood appears to be a ploy by authorities to increase news coverage and to pre-empt a national crackdown by regional wings of the Chinese customs and police. This has become an annual crackdown, even while smuggling continues unabated.

What’s different this time around is that the arrests seem to have been triggered by a separate, ongoing crackdown on money laundering being pursued by Chinese authorities seeking to stem the outflow of hot money out of China that’s pulling down the value of the yuan. A police report on the arrests detail how the cash paid for the seafood was smuggled out of China to the United States using underground banks, known as “money farms” in Mandarin.

Arrested on 25 June at Penglai Airport, the gang leader is being referred to as Wang in Chinese police statements. An additional 14 detainees were arrested in the provinces of Fujian, Shandong, Shenyang and Guangxi on the Vietnamese border.

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