James Chao, father of Mitch McConnell’s wife Elaine, has a lot of questions to answer after 40 kilograms of cocaine (about $6.7 million worth) was found on the Ping May, a ship owned by the Foremost Group, a company James Chao founded and led to a tidy fortune. But was that fortune built on honest movement of legitimate bulk trade goods, or has Mr. Chao been trading in less than legal goods?
The cocaine, found in 40 separate packages, was discovered during a routine inspection hidden among a load of coal bound for Europe from the port of Santa Marta, Columbia onboard the Ping May, one of 15 ships Foremost currently operates, with another 8 under construction. The final destination for the ship was to be the Netherlands, likely one of the port cities surrounding Amsterdam. It is known that the Ping May has been witnessed at the port of Zaanstad, one of these cities, in the past.
Foremost Group is the source of most of Senator McConnell’s fortune through gifts and inheritance from his in-laws. It is a shadowy corporation, utilizing a complex scheme of shell companies to skip out on millions in taxes annually.
They fly their ships under the flag of Liberia, a west African nation known for its lax labor protections, allowing Foremost the opportunity to exploit its ships’ workforce with little fear of recrimination. However, this status as an employer-friendly anti-labor nation also allowed western African nations, such as Liberia, to become one of the epicenters for drug smuggling through legitimate channels. By working to extract every red cent of profit at the cost of the laborers who make their fortunes possible, Foremost may have sewn the seeds of its own downfall.
It could be that some among the ships workforce, tired of being exploited, decided on being creative with their income. It could be that the drug cartels which dominate Columbia inserted the cocaine without any of the ships crew knowing. Or it could be that Mr. Chao is in league with the drug cartels, possibly for a very long time, and chose to fly under the Liberian flag for this very reason. We do not know.
It is most likely that Mr. Chao’s greed is the only crime for which he is guilty. By using this elaborate scheme to not only defraud the US government of owed taxes but to exploit his workforce, Mr. Chao may have made such a scenario a foregone conclusion. Now his company is under a microscope, the last place the very private man wanted it.