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COMMENT: As the off-year elections approach, with the GOP projected to take control of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader-to-be Mitch McConnell’s family is in the news for the wrong reasons. (Most of McConnell’s fortune apparently comes from his in-laws.)
His father-in-law (James Chao) has prospered because of his founding and proprietorship of a shipping line, The Foremost Group.
That company has an opaque structure, with many of its ships registered in countries that make compliance with maritime regulations easier to skirt.
Now, one of Foremost’s ships (the Ping May) has been busted sailing from Colombia for Amsterdam with 40 kilograms of cocaine aboard.
In the post accessed below, author Nathan Downes asks a relevant question: How much of Foremost’s largesse (and, by extension, the McConnell clan’s wealth) is derived from shady enterprises?
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.