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‘Junket King’ Alvin Chau Jailed For 18 Years In Macao

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'Junket King' Alvin Chau Jailed For 18 Years In Macao

(CTN NEWS) –  MACAO – Alvin Chau, a former “junket king” of Macao, was given an 18-year prison term on Wednesday (Jan. 18) for running an illegal gambling business, bringing to a close a criminal trial that stunned the casino centre and brought down one of its most prominent gaming magnates.

The Suncity Group’s 48-year-old founder invented the junket business, which attracted high rollers from mainland China to Macao, the only location where casinos are permitted to operate lawfully.

At its height in the 2010s, the former Portuguese colony, which had a pre-pandemic casino industry larger than Las Vegas, owed the majority of its gaming income to junkets.

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Chau’s demise was timed to coincide with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decades-long anti-corruption campaign, which has involved considerably greater inspection of dishonest officials who would visit Macao to place bets and launder money.

289 counts of fraud, money laundering, and unlawful gambling were brought against Chau by the prosecution.

Judge Lou Ieng Ha found Alvin Chau guilty of fraud, leading a criminal organization, and running unlawful bets on Wednesday, but cleared him of the money laundering charge.

She ruled that Suncity, under Chau’s direction, “conducted illicit gambling for unlawful gains for a long period” and gave him an 18-year prison term.

She also gave the Macao government US$834 million in damages and five of the city’s six casino operators—MGM China, Wynn Macau, Sands China, Galaxy Entertainment, and SJM Holdings—US$275 million.

Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau attends an event in Macao on Nov 29, 2020. The founder of Macao’s once biggest casino junket organizer will face 18 years in jail after being convicted of a series of charges, including operating illegal gaming activities, running a criminal organization and fraud on Wednesday, Jan 18, 2023. (AP Photo, File)

UNLAWFUL BETS

The trial started in September and focused on alleged under-the-table bets that cost HK$824 billion (US$106 billion) over eight years and cheated Macao of more than HK$1 billion in tax revenue.

Along with 20 other defendants, Alvin Chau was charged with facilitating Chinese players’ remote gambling in Southeast Asian casinos through proxy betting.

The defense recognized the presence of under-the-table gambling in Macao but emphasized the absence of specific evidence linking Chau, Suncity executives, or staff members.

Speaking before the court in December, Chau said that his business had never encountered legal issues in more than ten years of running VIP rooms at casinos all around the world.

Alvin Chau reportedly added, “I don’t know why [Suncity] is considered a criminal syndicate.”

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“Until today, none of my colleagues have seen any illicit proceeds. We have never given extra remuneration for unlawful behavior.”

One of Chau’s attorneys, Pedro Leal, stated following the Wednesday verdict that he thought there might be caused for an appeal but needed to speak with his client first.

He told reporters, “I think the evidence is absent for the theft and illegal betting. ”

When Wenzhou, on the mainland, authorities issued a warrant for Alvin Chau’s arrest for operating an illegal gambling ring, Chau’s legal troubles started.

He and other senior corporate executives were subsequently detained by Macao authorities two days later, but they opted to file local charges instead, citing an ongoing investigation that was centered in the city.

/ GETTY IMAE

REVERSE BANKING

The legal system in Macao is distinct from that of the Chinese mainland and is mostly based on Portuguese law.

A Wenzhou court found 36 people associated with Alvin Chau and Suncity guilty in September on charges that partially overlapped the Macao case.

Following the arrests, Suncity closed all of its VIP rooms, and several other casino owners did the same, with some also claiming COVID-19-related financial difficulties.

As the government reinforced its regulatory authority with Beijing’s support, which took the shape of a legislation amendment last June, it signaled a change in Macao’s gaming sector.

/ GETTY IMAE

Levo Chan, a well-known junket boss and Alvin Chau’s former adversary, is also facing separate charges of fraud, money laundering, and running a criminal organization.

Gaming analyst David Green told AFP, “The junket model was one of the major movers for money laundering for as long as it was dominant.”

On Wednesday, shares of the city’s casino operators increased, with Sands China closing the day up 3.8%, Galaxy up 3.7%, and SJM up 3%.

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