Thirty-five individuals linked to Macau’s Suncity junket have pleaded guilty to gambling crimes at a court in Wenzhou, eastern China, Macau Business reports.
The 35 are accused of being part of a cross-border gambling syndicate to enable Chinese residents to travel to VIP junkets, overseen by Chau, to Macau and elsewhere.
Wenzhou prosecutors claim Chau has made billions of dollars overseeing these channels, which comprised over 60,000 agents. As well as organizing junket trips, agents would promote online betting platforms based in the Philippines where gamblers could play for high stakes.
Prosecutors in Wenzhou indicted the defendants in November 2021, along with Suncity CEO and chairman Alvin Chau Cheok Wa. Days later, Chau was arrested in Macau and charged by Macau prosecutors with operating a criminal syndicate, offering illegal online proxy betting from the Philippines, and money laundering.
Chau is due in court in Macau on Sept. 2, along with 21 other defendants. It is unclear whether he will be extradited to the mainland, as requested.
Suncity used asset management firms and underground banks to enable cross-border money exchange and settlement services, according to prosecutors.
Nail in the Coffin
Until recently, Suncity was the biggest operator in the junket industry, which drove massive revenues into Macau’s casino sector.
Macau’s casinos hit their peak in 2014 when gaming revenue was more than US$45 billion, triple that of Las Vegas. Of that, 60 percent was driven by junkets, and Suncity accounted for around 40 percent of the junket market. Those numbers waned in the ensuing years as Macau, under Beijing’s influence, began to pivot away from its reliance on the VIP market.
Chau’s arrest was the final nail in the coffin for the junkets, signifying that Beijing had finally lost patience with an industry it blamed for money laundering, capital flight, and “severely disrupting the social order.”
Possible Triad Roots
The origins of the junket industry lay in the triad gangs that fought vicious turf wars for control of Macau’s illegal gambling dens and legal casino VIP rooms in the 1990s. At the time, Chau was a member of the 14K triads, led by notorious gangster “Broken Tooth” Wan Kwok Koi, according to the Australian government, allegations he has denied.
Chau’s efforts to “legitimize” the junket industry were ultimately in vain. After the arrest of its chairman and CEO, Suncity’s junket arm, Suncity Gaming Promotion Company Ltd (SGPC), was dissolved, and its VIP gambling rooms in Macau’s casinos were shut down.
Chau remains a major shareholder in the wider Suncity Group, which owns casinos in Russia and Vietnam and is building the Westside City Project in Manila.
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