Cambodia and Laos casinos targeted for drug-trade money laundering

Investigators in Southeast Asia follow money trail from booming meth market.

Anti-narcotic investigators are searching for signs of money laundering in the casinos that have spread across Sihanoukville, a Cambodian coastal city that has become a magnet for Chinese high-rollers, amid the booming methamphetamine market in Southeast Asia.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates the region’s meth market — Southeast Asia is the world’s epicenter of the synthetic drug — to be valued at $ 61.4 billion annually, more than double the Cambodian economy of $24 billion.

“The casinos in Sihanoukville are now worth looking into, as you have currency exchanges in all of them, and there are currency wire services just next to the gambling tables,” an international investigator told the Nikkei Asian Review. “All the punters are Chinese and they gamble with thick stacks of 100 dollar bills.”

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