When it comes to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, there seems to be no barriers to the business opportunities involved.
Spare a thought for Wan Kuok-koi, 62, the notorious former triad leader in Macau, who wants to expand his business – security – along Belt and Road countries.
“Broken Tooth Koi”, as he is known, claims to be a former leader of the Macau branch of the 14K triad. He reportedly plans to create a ‘Hongmen’ – a Chinese fraternal but secretive organization – to provide security along countries where the Belt and Road Initiative extends, to protect the legitimate interest of Chinese businessmen, according to local reports.
In a four-minute video clip, Wan made clear that the security company he envisages setting up would be a patriotic private entity.
“Thank the heavens for giving a once-in-a-century opportunity to give something in return to the country and nation,” Wan said in the leaked video. “I will do my utmost to promote the national policy and assist in whatever way for peaceful and united cross-straits relations.”
Wan said he hoped to raise US$30 million in seed money and list the security flagship within two years. He would also set up a Hongmen charity fund to help the elderly and youths.
Wan, it appears, wants to revive his glory days after spending 13 years in prison. He was only released in 2012.
The former gangster was jailed for trying to protect Macau’s lucrative casino business. In May 1998, he was arrested a day after a bomb blew up a car owned by the director of investigative police in the former Portuguese enclave.
Wan was sentenced to 15 years’ jail for possessing weapons, money laundering and illegal gambling in November 1999, just before the gaming city was handed over to China by Portugal in December of the same year. He later had his term shortened to 13 years and 10 months.
Shortly before his release in December 2012, one of his subordinates was quoted in a Next Magazine report that Wan regretted having lost the opportunity to enjoy the golden era of Macau’s gaming industry during the 2000s, but he would not give up. The confidant quoted Wan as saying “I have my brand and a massive opportunity.”
After vowing not to create further trouble in Macau, Wan eventually got a seat on the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an important political advisory committee, that put him alongside the powerful Macau casino king Stanley Ho and his son Lawrence Ho.
Last year he was reported to be among a group of investors for an initial coin offering to raise US$500 million to bring blockchain technology to the world’s most cash-rich gambling hub – the biggest single offering to date.
Wan declined to be interviewed about his Belt and Road ambition. But the former triad boss has never stopped surprising his followers.
Wan’s revival brings a comment to mind by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who said in 1984: “Not all Chinese secret societies are bad, many societies are patriotic.”
The statement is undoubtedly very true, especially if China can offer such an opportunity – and allow a former triad boss to start a new life.
Yet despite his connections, there are doubts on whether Wan will be able to fulfill his ambition, given the high-profile anti-corruption drive that President Xi Jinping has presided over in recent years.