Chinese authorities say they have disrupted a “criminal gang” that operated an underground “industrial chain,” organizing trips for Chinese high rollers to Russia’s Tigre de Cristal casino.
According to the public security departments of Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces, the capital involved in the junket operation was around 1.6 billion yuan, or about a quarter of a billion US dollars.
A joint taskforce from the two provinces arrested 142 suspects, following an investigation that spanned more than 30 cities in 12 Chinese provinces.
Authorities said the operation comprised 18 shell companies, four undergrounds banks, and ten travel agencies. Police seized more than 4,000 bank cards during the investigation and interviewed 2,963 gamblers.
The two provinces are in the far northeast of China and straddle the border with Russia, close to where the Tigre de Crystal is situated.
The casino opened in 2015 in Russia’s Primorye special economic zone, close to Vladivostok, precisely to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers across the border.
Except for state-owned lotteries, all gambling is illegal in China. In recent years, Beijing has come down hard on those who offer and promote cross-border gambling to its citizens.
Central government is determined to prevent capital flight from putting pressure on the foreign exchange rate. And the illegal movement of money abroad for the purposes of gambling has become a big part of that problem.
China’s Ministry of Public Security said has that about 1 trillion yuan (US$145.5 billion) flows out of the mainland into gambling activities every year. This was a “threat to the country’s economy and national security,” it warned.
Last year, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism announced it had drawn up a blacklist of foreign travel destinations that promoted casino gambling to mainland citizens.
Tigre de Cristal is controled by Hong Kong-based junket group Suncity, which as of last year owns an almost 70 percent stake in the casino’s parent company, Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd.
Suncity is the biggest junket operator in the world. It is not named in any of the reports coming out of China and has declined to comment on the situation.
Beijing is no fan of Suncity. In 2019, the state-run press agency accused the company of reaping billions of dollars through offshore online gambling operations that were illegally targeting the Chinese mainland.
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