A Chinese couple has been arrested and indicted in the United States for allegedly plotting to set up an autonomous mini-state in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, said US prosecutors.
DOJ press release on Friday noted that Cary Yan, 50, and Gina Zhou, 34, are accused of money laundering and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
It is said that Cary and Gina tried to persuade US lawmakers to set up a Semi-Autonomous Region (SAR) in the Marshall Islands. US prosecutors have alleged that the pair had posed as officers from a non-governmental organisation in New York City.
The US Justice Department indictment sheet reads, “The defendants offered and provided a series of bribes and other incentives to obtain the support of legislators for the bill.”
The Chinese couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The allegations further mentioned that in the US, Cary and Gina tried to bribe Marshall Islands officials. As per the filing, around 2016 to 2018, the NGO also held a “special consultative status” with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Starting in 2016, the Chinese couple met several officials in New York to set up a semi-autonomous region, similar to Hong Kong. They bid to create a SAR on the Rongelap Atoll, an area that was abandoned after testing of the US hydrogen bomb in the 1950s.
The indictment said: “Yan planned to use the Rasar to, among other things, attract investors and customers to businesses that he would operate in the Rasar, in whole or in part through the NGO.”
When the reports emerged, a former president of the Marshall Islands asked the authorities to conduct a probe.
The Guardian reported that the couple allegedly bribed five Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) officials and was attempting to bribe a sixth. Although, the identities of the six legislators were not revealed. But Hilda Heine, who is now an MP, said that “there’s some guesstimates of who the officials are.”
As quoted by Guardian, she added: “The people deserve to know who accepted bribes and accountability measures taken as appropriate by our laws. I hope the identities will be forthcoming.”
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