Using Spousal Information on Corporate Records to Track Asia’s “El Chapo”
A person with the same name as a prominent international drug trafficker’s wife is a shareholder of two companies registered in Macau, an autonomous region on the south coast of China, according to spousal information included in corporate records.
Canadian national Tse Chi Lop, “Asia’s El Chapo,” controls an extensive global drug trafficking syndicate that produces and exports methamphetamine, heroin, and ketamine around the world, according to a Reuters report.
Sayari analysts identified two companies in Macau that may be linked to the syndicate. Interestingly, in addition to bearing names similar to another company confirmed to be involved, the Macau companies’ records list a married couple whose names match those of Tse Chi Lop and his wife. Combined with evidence provided by the media investigation, this development suggests that the two companies may be linked to the alleged criminal organization controlled by Tse Chi Lop.
This finding shows how spousal information disclosed on corporate records can be used to uncover previously unidentified companies in the absence of personal identifying information (PII), such as dates of birth and identification numbers.
A New Legendary Narcotics Trafficker in East Asia
Tse Chi Lop, a Canadian national born in China, reportedly controls a mega-syndicate referred to by its members as “The Company.” The Company allegedly produces and trafficks methamphetamine, heroin, and ketamine and operates throughout much of East Asia, according to the Reuters report.
The report also revealed that Tse Chi Lop and his wife, Tse Yim Fun, registered the Hong Kong-based company China Peace Investment Company Limited. Public records available in Sayari Graph show that the couple may have also registered two additional companies in Macau. These additional companies were not named in the Reuters report.
Using Spousal Data on Corporate Records
According to Macau corporate documents exclusively available in Sayari Graph, Chun Wo Entertainment Company Limited lists a female named Tse Yim Fun as a minority shareholder. The document further shows Tse Yim Fun’s marital status, indicating that she is married to an individual named Tse Chi Lop (see Fig.1).
Fig. 1: Excerpt from the corporate record for Chun Wo Entertainment Company Limited showing Tse Yim Fun is married to an individual named Tse Chi Lop.
In 2015, Chun Wo Entertainment obtained a license to serve as a Macau junket operator, an intermediary party that recruits wealthy gamblers on behalf of casinos in exchange for commissions. This industry is known to be dominated by the Triads, one of the criminal syndicates affiliated with Tse Chi Lop’s own criminal syndicate.
Macau corporate documents also show that someone with that same name, Tse Yim Fun, also maintains a minority ownership stake in a separate Macau company, Fuyi Real Estate Investment Co Ltd. Like the record for Chun Wo Entertainment, Tse Yim Fun is listed as married to Tse Chi Lop.
The Disambiguation Process
In the absence of PII, like dates of birth and ID numbers, one of the challenges with public records research is determining whether two individuals with the same name are in fact the same person.
In this case, there are two women with the same name and both of them are married to individuals named Tse Chi Lop. To further complicate matters, Macau records do not provide any identifying information on these women, such as a date of birth or ID number.
Even so, there are still ways to confirm whether these two individuals are the same person. First, the Reuters investigation indicates that Tse Chi Lop is associated with a company named China Peace Investment Group. The Chinese name for this company partially matches the Chinese name for Chun Wo Entertainment, where Tse Yim Fun appears as a minority shareholder.
Second, Tse Yim Fun is married to someone whose name exactly matches Tse Chi Lop. Third, she maintains minority stakes in companies in Macau, a jurisdiction where someone with the same name as her husband reportedly operates.
Finally, Sayari Graph, a platform which contains over 500 million public records from around the world, returns only two hits, both of which are in Macau for persons with the name Tse Yim Fun and Tse Chi Lop. Based on these factors, it is likely that the two companies mentioned above are in fact linked to Tse Chi Lop through his wife Tse Yim Fun.
Open-Source Analysis in the Absence of PII
Corporate records from around the world disclose varying levels of information on control parties. Sometimes these records provide PII. Other times, as in Macau, company documents do not disclose such identifiers, making it difficult to disambiguate between two individuals with the same name.
In the absence of identification numbers, dates of birth, and addresses, analysts can still use other data points provided on a corporate record. For investigators that conduct cross-jurisdictional network analysis, investigating a target’s family members and associates can be a useful way to identify ties to potentially illicit business activities and understand the network at-large.