What a Secret Chinese Police Station Did in Ecuador, by Paz Gómez


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Investigations Detail Money-Laundering Travel Agency

Key Findings
A media outlet alliance, Código Vidrio-Vistazo, has revealed a clandestine Chinese police station operating in Quito, Ecuador. This station, disguised as a travel agency called Andywei Travel, is part of a global network identified by Spain-based Safeguard Defenders in 2022. The network is the CCP’s Fox Hunt operation, which has drawn criticism for using extrajudicial methods to repatriate Chinese fugitives.

Chinese companies working with the Ecuadorian state have used Andywei Travel to divert millions of dollars from public procurement processes. This scheme allowed the money to remain within Ecuador and, presumably, to enable an embezzlement scheme. The agency amounted to a money-laundering operation, serving as a financial channel rather than a legitimate travel business.

Despite international scrutiny and exposure of the covert Chinese police station, Ecuadorian authorities have been reluctant to combat the issue directly, largely due to the country’s dependence on China. However, the exposure of the secret station had an immediate tangential impact. In June 2024, Ecuador began requiring visas for Chinese citizens.

On May 14, 2024, Código Vidrio-Vistazo (CVV, roughly translated to the “glass code” and “glance”)—an alliance of two Ecuadorian media outlets—exposed a covert Chinese police station operating in Quito, Ecuador, under the guise of a travel agency: Andywei Travel. The research stemmed from a report by Spain-based nonprofit Safeguard Defenders. It alleged a global network of such stations, including three in Ecuador, although the Quito station was CVV‘s prime subject of investigation.

CVV reported that the covert station operated out of Hotel Quito—a four-star hotel purchased by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in 2016. CRBC, a contractor with the Ecuadorian state, has been under investigation for corruption in infrastructure projects, including bribery and mispricing.

These stations have duplicated worldwide under the guidelines of the Fox Hunt operation, launched by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in June 2014. Fox Hunt seeks, among other objectives, to pursue Chinese dissidents and forcibly repatriate them under the narrative of fighting corruption and crime. According to Safeguard Defenders, only 1 percent of Chinese fugitives return to the country through legal extradition proceedings. The CCP regime forces the vast majority home through illegal methods that violate other countries’ sovereignty and fundamental rights.

The CVV report’s investigations had an immediate impact: Andywei Travel ceased operations in March 2024 after journalists visited its facilities. Moreover, on June 18, 2024, the Ecuadorian government started requiring visas for Chinese citizens to enter the country.

The presence of covert Chinese police stations poses a threat not only to the growing Chinese exodus in Ecuador but also to the country’s sovereignty and financial system. This investigation explains the CVV findings and examines the implications for Ecuador. The Impunity Observer also interviewed Arturo Torres, director at the Código Vidrio digital outlet, for further details not published in the original CVV report.

Andywei Travel’s Simulated Operations
CVV has investigated the case for over eight months. First, CVV reached out to Safeguard Defenders, which shared unreleased data, including the coordinates of the covert station in Quito. In addition, CVV gathered data from financial and intelligence reports and interviews with Ecuadorian intelligence officials and Chinese expatriates living in Ecuador and the United States.

Andywei Travel operated from a commercial store in an external portion of the Hotel Quito building, beside the Ecuadorian chapter of the Chinese Colony Confederation (an association of expatriates). From the street, the confederation appeared to operate in a different store, but when CVV journalists visited the two storefronts, they found out the outdoor signs were a façade. Inside, there was a single office.

Arturo Torres—one of the CVV report’s authors—told the Impunity Observer: “I visited Andywei Travel three times. A Chinese woman who did not speak Spanish worked there in an office with several printers and computers. It did not appear to be a travel agency. One could not access the Colony office, but an Ecuadorian lady showed up to offer support. First, she offered to purchase travel tickets on the internet—they had no tours to offer—and then she referred us to an Ecuadorian travel agency.”

Following these visits, Andywei Travel closed in March 2024. CVV revealed the travel agency previously had three other locations in Quito, all of which have closed. According to Torres, covert agents appear to still be operating in the neighboring Ecuadorian cities of Guayaquil and Durán, both home to large Chinese populations.

Torres also told the Impunity Observer, “Andywei Travel was not a travel agency. Everything was a simulation. The agency served as a channel to transfer millions of dollars from Chinese contractors with the Ecuadorian state, allowing them to keep the money inside the country.”

CVV discovered that Ecuador’s Internal Revenue Service (SRI) suspended Andywei Travel’s operations on January 31, 2023, citing the agency’s failure to provide required tax declaration information. However, the office reopened immediately. Journalists were unable to find records of this suspension in the SRI archives, but the journalists did find discrepancies between tax declarations and income flows. Andywei Travel only paid $1,500 in income taxes from 2013 to 2016 and had declared financial losses from 2016 to 2023. However, its income and expense flows from 2016 to 2022 totaled $12 million—according to bank reports.

Further, CVV revealed that none of those revenues came from individual customers. Chinese contractor companies working with the Ecuadorian state, including CRBC, transferred this money to Andywei Travel, disguised as service fees for travel arrangements.

CCP Influence on Chinese Expatriates
Zhou Fengsuo, a Chinese human-rights activist exiled in the United States told the BBC: “Most Chinese organizations, either with cities or universities, are responsive to the local governments and boast their ties to the Chinese government. On the one hand, the CCP monitors closely the Chinese expatriates’ relatives back home and, by doing so, dissuades migrants from engaging in protests or denouncing the regime’s abuses. On the other hand, the CCP bribes them with free travel tickets to China or luxury dinners.”

“Their mechanisms include threatening expatriates with actions against their relatives living in China and removing their passports to control their movements,” Torres from Código Vidrio asserted. “Covert agents also coerce expatriates to conduct activities in the host nation that could be beneficial for the Chinese regime. A potential hypothesis is that [the CCP] might be transferring money to citizens to invest in countries where interest rates are higher than in China, such as Ecuador, and then asking the expatriates to return to China with the money.”

Andywei Travel’s founder is Chinese citizen Wei Fuyan. According to official documentation from the CCP regime, Fuyan arrived in Ecuador in 2005 to lead a media outlet focused on the Chinese exodus in South America. The outlet had financial support from the United Front Work Department—a CCP agency that allegedly targets the Chinese diaspora to ensure their support for the regime and to keep potential regime detractors divided.

Before opening the travel agency, Fuyan also collaborated in the creation of CCP-aligned local associations. For example, he was a leading member of the Chinese Colony Confederation that operated beside Andywei Travel at Hotel Quito.

“Wei Fuyan’s background was close to the Chinese embassy in Ecuador. His profile was similar to other Chinese covert agents,” Torres said. “What we know is that Fuyan returned to China and that he is in prison. The CCP discovered that he was conducting coyoterismo activities here in Ecuador.” Coyotes are human traffickers who support illegal migrants by falsifying passports and offering travel guidance.

The Rise of Chinese Migration to Ecuador
In 2008, the number of Chinese visitors to Ecuador was 1,788. However, that number soared to 30,147 in 2017. That year, only 628 of them did not return to China. In contrast, 48,381 Chinese citizens arrived in Ecuador in 2023, and 24,141 did not return.

Our deputy editor, Mauro Echeverría, reported in March, 2024, a growing Chinese exodus was arriving in Ecuador by airplane to start their journey to the US southern border by land. They chose Ecuador because they did not need a travel visa to enter the country. In 2015, China and Ecuador signed a reciprocal agreement to abolish visa requirements.

However, following the release of the CVV report and migration statistics, the Ecuadorian state suspended the agreement on June 18, 2024, and started requiring visas for Chinese citizens again. According to Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Gabriela Sommerfeld, the growing flow of Chinese migrants was fueling human trafficking at the country’s northern border.

While many Chinese citizens have departed for the United States and other destinations, many others have stayed in the country. According to Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, from 2013 to 2023, around 57,000 residence permits were granted to Chinese migrants.

A Chinese migrant living in Ecuador, going by the name of Milly, told media outlet Voz de América that “Between 80 and 90 percent of the people that leave China do it because they fear living in their country.” Milly explains some fear the devaluation of the Chinese yuan currency, while others fear political persecution, constant surveillance, and property confiscation.

CVV also interviewed Chinese migrants who fled from their homeland in 2023 due to CCP repression, which has risen since the COVID-19 outbreak. A 28-year-old lady, Xiao Wei, said that Chinese citizens experienced harsh conditions, due to movement restrictions: “The people did not have groceries, and elders or pregnant women could not access medical attention, because they could not leave their homes. There were officials outside their homes monitoring and obliging them to stay in isolation.”

Ecuadorian Authorities Avoid Confrontation
According to the CVV report, the secret police station at Andywei Travel was part of a broader network identified by Safeguard Defenders in 2022. At that time, it revealed at least 102 Chinese covert police agencies operating in 53 countries. In the Americas, there were allegedly four in the United States, five in Canada, three in Brazil, three in Ecuador, two in Argentina, and one each in Chile, Colombia, Cuba, and Peru.

Warning about CCP monitoring practices, Safeguard Defenders suggested that nations track down these agencies. Over time, media and officials worldwide have found the locations and operations of some of these agencies. For example, the FBI exposed one operating in Manhattan’s Chinatown in April 2023.

In contrast, Ecuadorian authorities appear to have turned a blind eye to international findings. At least they have not addressed them directly. Juan Zapata, Ecuador’s interior minister from September 2022 to November 2023, told CVV that no complaint about a covert Chinese police agency was filed during his tenure, which coincided with the release of the Safeguard Defenders report.

After exposing Andywei Travel and its operations, “no authority has initiated investigations into financial transactions and accounts,” argues Torres of Código Vidrio. “The dependence of Ecuador on China, makes [the CCP] a scot-free actor, and authorities prefer to avoid [the Chinese].”

Since 2012, China has become an important ally to Ecuador, as former President Rafael Correa strengthened diplomatic relations during his tenure promoting a socialist regime. Torres said “China seized all available opportunities in Ecuador—including public procurement and investments—and brought Chinese workers to the country. Originally, the covert [Quito] station monitored these workers, but in the last three years it has focused on the increasing wave of Chinese migrants arriving in Ecuador.”

The Cost of Chinese Surveillance
With the Fox Hunt operation, the CCP is exporting repression, authoritarianism, and corruption. In addition to violating national sovereignty, the CCP’s covert police stations around the world have engaged in illegal surveillance, intimidation and incarceration, and alleged tax evasion. Regarding the threat to financial systems, Torres told the Impunity Observer that CVV will continue to investigate the trends of Chinese covert police stations in Ecuador. He and his colleagues will pay particular attention to financial activities conducted by the network of Chinese enterprises that transferred money to Andywei Travel.

Moreover, a 2019 investigation by the New York Times revealed that Ecuador’s emergency security system, ECU911, installed in 2012 by the Chinese National Electronics Export & Import Corporation, provided the CCP regime with access to sensitive information. The Times report indicated the CCP had been utilizing information from the monitoring system—equipped with cameras and tracking technology—to enhance its political persecution capabilities. In addition, during the tenure of former President Lenín Moreno, who succeeded Correa, the Ecuadorian state warned of information leaks orchestrated by former officials.

Despite these findings, Ecuador has not replaced ECU911 equipment and software due to budget constraints and political resistance. The continued use of this compromised system has had significant repercussions. In the 2023 election, for example, a presidential candidate was murdered by a gang of shooters. Investigations revealed that the perpetrators hacked the ECU911 system to assist with executing the crime.

The clandestine global network of police agencies, equipment, and organizations that the CCP is deploying poses a threat to Ecuador’s national security and residents’ well-being, especially the Chinese expatriates among them, since they find few places to hide. Intelligence services in the Americas nations likely need coordination to better understand and counter CCP operations. However, addressing the challenge appears necessary to safeguard citizens’ privacy and security and the integrity of their financial systems.

The opinion of this article is foreign to Noticiero El Vigilante


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