Pieces of the Puzzle: The Feds Close in on the Real Flow of Chinese Cash

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The Feds close in on the real flow of Chinese cash

EVERY WEEK THE FBI AGENT ARRIVES at the Grand National Bank in suburban Los Angeles. Unfailingly polite, hauls away documents pertaining to bank accounts connected to Ted Sioeng, an Indonesian-born L.A. businessman. Lately he's been getting a bit impatient, pressing the employees who process his subpoenas to turn over more documents-quickly. Why? Because the tiny bank has become ground zero in the Feds' probe into the Asian connection.

Sen. Fred Thompson's investigators couldn't produce proof of a Chinese plot to buy influence by illegally contributing to U.S. campaigns. But now Sioeng's bank accounts have yielded enough new evidence to prompt the Feds to convene a grand jury in L.A. to investigate Sioeng and other contributors. Confidential bank records examined by NEWSWEEK show that Sioeng and his family received wire transfers from two Hong Kong holding companies at the same time he was giving to the Democratic National Committee. The companies, it turns out, handle Sioeng's business in China-which means Chinese money could have ended up in U.S. campaign coffers. NEWSWEEK has learned that investigators also want to know why Sioeng was flying parties of Chinese provincial officials to the United States for "training courses" using Chinese money. And Sioeng was mentioned in intercepted Chinese communications in which Beijing officials discuss how to influence U.S. politics. Sioeng's lawyer says his client simply used real-estate profits to make political donations and that he adamantly denies being a Chinese agent. He won't discuss the criminal investigation.

Though he speaks no English and flashes a Belize passport, Ted Sioeng had little trouble becoming a player in the Democratic Party last year. He dined with Bill Clinton and Al Gore after giving the DNC $250,000. But Sioeng has close ties to Chinese pols, too. His extensive business with China included a deal to import Chinese-made cigarettes to the United States. And bank documents show that his account received at least $2.1 million in wire transfers from two of his Hong Kong companies last year--at the same time he and his daughter were giving generously to the DNC.

It's a classic case of following the money. On Feb. 19, for example, Sioeng's daughter wrote a check for $100,000 to the Democrats. …