China Authorities Make History by Arresting Macau Junket Billionaire for Money Laundering

  • Chinese officials have arrested Alvin Chau on claims of cross-border gambling, money laundering
  • He represents the first high-profile industry player to be targeted by Chinese authorities
  • The Suncity Group CEO stands accused of contracting junket operators in Macau since 2007
  • His arrest preceded a drop in stock of 10% for Wynn, nearly 8% for Sands China and Galaxy
Chinese yuan on washing line
Chinese police have made history by arresting high-profile junket CEO Alvin Chau Cheok-wa over illegal gambling and money laundering claims. [Image:]

Suncity Group CEO arrested

Chinese officials have arrested Macau junket kingpin Alvin Chau Cheok-wa and ten others on suspicion of illegal cross-border gambling and money laundering, China’s Business Times reports.

the first time police have targeted a high-profile figure

According to the Times, the Macau administration confirmed that authorities escorted Chau, CEO of the Suncity Group, to a police station for questioning on Saturday. The arrest marks the first time police have targeted a high-profile figure in the gaming industry in a money-laundering investigation.

China-facing political analyst Nathan Attrill took to Twitter to share news of The Wenzhou Public Security Bureau’s issuance of an arrest warrant for Chau on Friday:

According to a WeChat post by the Wenzhou bureau, Chau stands accused of “opening casinos in China” and the operation of cross-border gambling via his group’s sub-brand, Suncity Gaming Promotion Company Limited.

Active since 2007

A lengthy post by the Bureau details its investigation into Chau’s illegal operation in the autonomous Chinese region known as the Las Vegas of Asia. From 2007, Chau supposedly contracted junket operators in Macau, “and then in 2016 started up online gambling platforms in the Philippines.”

Gambling is illegal in mainland China. In 2020, police busted thousands of online gambling platforms in the country, making more than 75,000 arrests in the process.

The post added that the gaming mogul hired mainland Chinese nationals as “shareholder-level agents and gambling agents” who would arrange for Chinese citizens to gamble in his overseas junkets. Chau’s cronies also allegedly organized for these citizens to engage in cross-border online betting activities by “granting high credit, promoting the gambling business, providing transportation services, and technical support.”

Criminal gambling empire

Underscoring the scope of Chau’s operation, according to the Bureau, was an asset management outfit the Suncity CEO established in mainland China. The company collected gambling debts and serviced gamblers to exchange assets for betting chips and make cross-border capital exchanges, complete with the use of underground banks.

over 12,000 gambling agents, and more than 80,000 customers

The Bureau added that as of July 2020, Chau’s criminal gambling group had 199 shareholder-level agents, over 12,000 gambling agents, and more than 80,000 customers. Those linked to the case admitted Chau’s outfit also set up betting websites and took part in telemarketing activities in other locations.

Regional shockwaves

After once again drawing the scrutiny of the Chinese government via Saturday’s arrest, the ramifications for the casino industry in Macau are all too clear.

Chau’s arrest will harm investor sentiment toward the Macau casino sector

Following Chau’s arrest, Wynn Macau’s stock dropped 10%, while Sands China and Galaxy Entertainment Group’s stock fell by almost 8%. The Times cites JPMorgan and Citigroup stating that Chau’s arrest will harm investor sentiment toward the Macau casino sector.

Jeremy Douglas, UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said the fall-out will have a tsunami effect on the wider junket market. “There is little doubt that Chau’s arrest warrant will send shockwaves through organized crime in Hong Kong and Macau, but also in the Philippines, Cambodia, and Laos,” Douglas commented.

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