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His targets: Accenture. American Express. In less than two years, he made off with at least 6. But he had a problem. 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.
He found it in China. Today, he is in good company. Criminals around the world have discovered that a good way to liberate their dirty money is to send it to China, which is emerging as an international hub for money laundering, an AP investigation has found. Gangs from Israel and Spain, North African cannabis dealers and cartels from Mexico and Colombia are among those using China as a haven where they can safely hide money, clean it, and pump it back into the global financial system, according to police officials, European and US court records and intelligence documents reviewed by the AP.
Chinese paramilitary policemen march outside the Bank of China headquarters in Beijing, China, February 25, Chikli is widely credited in France with inventing a con that has inspired a generation of copycats. And the damages are rising fast.
Gilbert Chikli poses for a photo at his home in Ashdod, March 28, Beyond that, a swing set, pink-and-purple tricycle and orange ball jumble his lawn. And then there is Chikli himself, tan and smiling at his massive front door.
He was sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison by a French court last year and remains a wanted man, but here in Israel, he lives openly and talked about his criminal exploits with pride during four hours of interviews with the AP. Dirty money has long washed through China, but has been viewed primarily as a domestic problem. Now, mounting evidence shows that non-Chinese criminals are learning to tap entrenched, sophisticated Chinese systems to move money illegally— largely beyond the reach of Western law enforcement.