'Cash register' Li Ka-Shing
Charles R. Smith
Wednesday, June 7, 2000
Li Ka-Shing is no ordinary billionaire. Mr. Li's company currently operates the two ports on the Panama Canal, the Pacific port of Balboa and the Atlantic port of Cristobal. According to recently declassified documents from the U.S. Commerce Department, Li Ka-Shing is a very special man in Beijing, Washington and Hong Kong.
"Li is reputed to have a close business relationship with key figures in Beijing," states an August 1999 from the American Embassy in Hong Kong. "And he has a number of real estate and infrastructure projects in the mainland. These close relationships were said to be key to his obtaining the prime site on Beijing's Wangfujing for his USD2 billion Oriental Plaza Project. Some have suggested that it was because of Li's mainland connections that the man behind the 1996 kidnapping of his son Victor was arrested last year in China and swiftly executed. Li is a leading member of Hong Kong's ethnic Chinese business elite, a tycoon who is no democrat. This fact is reflected in his recent claim that he canceled a HKD10 billion (USD1.3 billion) project because of the unfavorable business climate created by Hong Kong's politicized (more democratic) business climate."
The Commerce Department documents also show that law enforcement agencies were very concerned about Li Ka-Shing's connections to the Triad gangs. A 1995 cable from the American Embassy in Nassau noted that Li Ka-Shing had signed an agreement to build an $88 million container ship terminal in the Grand Bahamas. Curiously, for a harmless deal done by a Hong Kong tycoon, the copy list for the cable is addressed to several law enforcement agencies such as the Customs Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency.
"Reftel describes U.S. agencies' security concerns about possible smuggling attempts through the terminal," states the cable from the American Embassy. "Post will request via septel assistance in addressing these concerns while port development plans are still on the drawing board."
One document on Li Ka-Shing, previously discovered by Larry Klayman and Judicial Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based legal watchdog group, came from the U.S. Defense Department. According to the October 1999 "Intelligence Assessment," prepared by the U.S. military Southern Command, the Hong Kong billionaire is a "threat" to the Panama Canal:
"Hutchison Whampoa's owner, Hong Kong tycoon, Li Ka-Shing, has extensive business ties in Beijing and has compelling financial reasons to maintain a good relationship with China's leadership," states the 1999 assessment. "For example, Hutchison Whampoa could threaten to shift some business from Panama to its facilities in the Bahamas, thus giving the company additional leverage over the Panamanian government."
The U.S. military intelligence report concluded: "Hutchison's containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the west to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas."
However, the newly released documents from the Commerce Department show that current Commerce Secretary Daley met with the Beijing tycoon at a 1997 luncheon hosted by the powerful investment firm Goldman Sachs. The Commerce documents note that an informal "talk" between Daley, Mr. Li and several "influential business people" was held on the Goldman Sachs' boat "Monkey's Uncle" during a 1997 Hong Kong trade trip.
"Goldman Sachs' boat ('Monkey's Uncle') will depart from the Causeway Bay Typhoon Shelter at 11:30 am. The boat will sail near the new airport site at Chek Lap Kok. Lunch will be served on board."
The Commerce documents show that Daly and Li met on board the "Monkey's Uncle" with some of the leading Beijing owned businesses including two directly associated with the Chinese Army -- CITIC and, China Everbright. Some other "influential business people" were also included on the guest list for the lunch cruise. Among the leading figures are Raymond Kwok, Robert Kwok, and Canning Fok.
The newly released documents show that alleged organized crime "Triad" gangsters were included on the 1997 voyage of the "Monkey's Uncle." According to official U.S. Commerce materials, Secretary Daley sailed on a paradise cruise from Hong Kong with the "who's who" of Triad mob families.
According to a recent biography entitled "Li Ka-Shing," the billionaire formed a partnership with two leading members of the Asian "Triad" organized crime families, Robert Kwok and Henry Fok, to form the China International Trust Investment Company. A Rand Corporation report on CITIC noted that the Beijing based investment firm had acted as a front for Poly Technologies Inc., an arms manufacturer owned directly by the Chinese army.
The Fok family leader, Henry Fok, is reported to be a member of the 14K Triad. According to Ed Timperlake and Bill Triplett, co-authors of "Red Dragon Rising," "Henry Fok first made his name by running United Nations-embargoed goods to China during the Korean War. His son was later convicted for trying to bring Chinese machine guns into the United States."
Robert Kwok reportedly leads the Kwok family businesses and is allegedly involved in the heroin smuggling business inside Burma. In 1997, Commerce Secretary Daley met with the Robert and his son Kwok. Peter Kwok is the business partner of Sen. Dianne Feinstien's, democrat from California, husband Robert Blum.
Peter has also worked for Li Ka-Shing and the Chinese Army. In 1989, Peter Kwok helped CITIC and Li Ka-Shing raise $120 million to buy a Hughes-built communications satellite for AsiaSat, a company part owned by the Chinese army unit COSTIND, or the Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.
Clearly, the concerns at DEA, Customs and the Defense Department about arms smuggling, drugs and stolen military technology are well founded and well documented. It does not take a "Monkey's Uncle" to figure out exactly what kind of businessman Li Ka-Shing is. However, those concerns either fell on deaf ears or were ignored at the U.S. Commerce Department. Mr. Li met with Secretary Daley on board the "Monkey's Uncle" in 1997 and no questions were asked.
Li Ka-Shing is not interested in democracy. Li Ka-Shing is in business to make money, and for that he will cut a deal with anyone, including Goldman Sachs, the Chinese mob and the People's Liberation Army.