Gambling magnate Levo Chan appeared in Macau’s Court of First Instance on Monday for the first day of his trial on illegal gambling, fraud, and money laundering charges.
Until his arrest in January 2022, Chan was the head of the now-defunct Tak Chun Group, formerly the second-biggest junket operator in the gambling hub.
He was also the chairman and CEO of Macau Legend Development Ltd., which owns the Fisherman’s Wharf entertainment complex on Macau’s harbor and operates three casinos under the SJM Holdings license.
Under the Table
Macau prosecutors accuse Chan of illegal gambling, money laundering, and formation of a criminal syndicate. They suspect him of being the head of a triad gang, an offense that alone carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
The alleged offenses are unrelated to Macau Legend’s operations, and the company has appointed a new CEO, Melinda Chan, no relation, and new two chairs, Li Chu Kwan and David Chow, to replace Chan. However, the defendant remains the largest shareholder in the company, with 33%.
Prosecutors claim Chan’s Tak Chun junket offered illegal “under-the-table bets” to its high-rolling clients. These are private bets that involve the junket multiplying the stakes on “official” bets placed at Macau’s casinos. The wagers are settled later, tax-free.
In this way, Chan and Tak Chun reaped illicit gains in the US-dollar equivalent of around $200 million over the past six years, while cheating Macau’s government out of at least US$62 million in taxes, according to the indictment.
Tak Chun is also accused of running proxy betting operations. These involve a third party placing bets at a live casino on behalf of a gambler based elsewhere. The action is typically relayed by the third party to its client in real time, often via a mobile app. The practice has been banned in Macau since 2016.
Chan was the only one of nine codefendants linked to Tak Chun present in court Monday. He spoke little, other than to confirm some personal details when addressed by the judge, Macau Business reports. He declined to speak about the charges when given the opportunity to do so.
However, several former employees of the junket were called to testify and appeared to confirm the existence of multiplier and proxy betting operations.
Chan’s arrest came two months after that of Alvin Chau of the Suncity Group, the world’s biggest gaming junket, on similar charges. Chau’s trial concluded last week, and a verdict in that case is expected January 18.
The arrest of Chan and Chau signaled a death knell for the junket industry in Macau, which had once generated 60% of casino revenues for the world’s biggest gambling hub. But the junkets attracted the ire of Central Government in Beijing, which blamed them for encouraging cross-border gambling, money laundering, and capital flight.
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