War On Terror Meets High Finance

For all you Ken Follett and Frederick Forsyth fans who love thrillers about global intrigue, NPR reported a very interesting story today.

In 2005, the U.S. government suspected a Macau bank of laundering North Korean funds. Under the global jurisdiction of the Patriot Act, the U.S. froze $25 million of the bank’s North Korean assets. This week, North Korea announced they want their money back, or else the country’s nuclear program will continue.

However, North Korea insists they be reimbursed through a private bank, and nobody wants to be the guy signing the check. “No bank is willing to help return the money to North Korea,” reported NPR this morning. “Banks fear helping North Korea would taint the banks in the eyes of the U.S. Treasury Department, even though the request came from the U.S. State Department.”

An unnamed Las Vegas casino may stage a buyout of Banco Delta Asia (the Macau bank that currently holds the frozen assets) in order to refund the money. And what does it gain in the transaction? An almost impossible-to-get Macau gaming license.

Macau is rapidly becoming the world’s gambling capital. Gambling is illegal in Chian except for Macau, so the chinese are flocking there. According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Macau’s tourist receipts are projected to rise from US$2.87 billion in 2003 to US$7.37 billion by 2010. Check out the Wynn Macau and the Venetian Macao to see how much they’ve spent on their casinos.

Maybe its time to invest Macau?

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