Anti-drug investigators turn sights to Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville Beach

Anti-narcotic investigators have turned their gaze to casinos in Sihanoukville, which they believe have become a cesspool of illegal money laundering, Nikkei Asian Review reports.

The investigation comes amid a booming methamphetamine market in Southeast Asia.

“The casinos in Sihanoukville are now worth looking into, as you have currency exchanges in all of them, and there are currency wire services just next to the gambling tables,” said an international investigator. 

“All the punters are Chinese and they gamble with thick stacks of 100 dollar bills.”

Cambodia’s “porous” border and US dollar economy have made it easy for transnational criminal networks to drive the meth trade, said insiders. 

“Suitcases full of cash are brought across the Thai-Cambodian and Vietnam-Cambodian borders regularly, and exchanging them for dollars does not raise eyebrows,” a Western diplomatic source told Nikkei. “The unregulated casinos are ideal venues to launder this cash.”

Sihanoukville has garnered the attention of media and the public in recent years, with the proliferation of Chinese-led businesses and tourists. 

According to estimates from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,  the region’s meth market is valued at $61.4 billion annually, more than double the Cambodian economy of $24 billion.