Macao arrests 11 people for illegal gambling and money laundering

Macao arrests 11 people for illegal gambling and money laundering
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Macao police said on Sunday they had arrested 11 people in an investigation into an illegal gambling and money-laundering syndicate, a day after businessman Alvin Chau, who organizes trips to Asian casinos for big spending gamblers, was questioned at a police station.

The police said in a statement that people involved in the case acknowledged the group had operated gambling websites or telemarketing activities in other places.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported that at a news conference on Sunday, Macao's judiciary police did not name the individuals but said they included a 47-year-old Macao businessman surnamed Chau.

It was not clear if this was Alvin Chau, who is chairman of Suncity Group Holdings. He is also the founder of a separate legal entity also called Suncity, the special administrative region's biggest "junket operator", which runs VIP gambling rooms across Asia.

Junket operators are go-betweens who bring high rollers to play at casinos, extending them credit and collecting on their debts. Macao itself is known as the Las Vegas of Asia and has grown rich from the gambling industry.

The Suncity junket operator could not be reached for comment. Representatives of the Hong Kong-listed Sun City Group Holdings could not be reached by phone and did not respond to email inquiries seeking comment on the company's or Chau's behalf.

A Macao judiciary police duty spokesperson did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou said on Friday that an investigation had found Alvin Chau formed a junket agent network in the mainland to help citizens engage in offshore and cross-border gambling activities.

The Macao government said on Saturday he was taken to the police station for questioning, based on earlier evidence and after it received a notification about the arrest warrant from the mainland authorities.

GGRAsia, a news outlet on the Asia casino industry, quoted a Suncity spokesperson as saying by email early on Saturday: "All businesses are normally operating in accordance with the law and under the supervision of the Macau Special Administrative Region Government."

Chau is also a controlling shareholder of Sun Entertainment Group, a film production and cremation services firm, which said in a Sunday exchange filing its board had noted news coverage about the investigations in Wenzhou and Macao.

"The Board wishes to emphasis that the News Coverage is relating to the personal affairs of Mr. Chau. The Board is of the view that the Incident does not have any material impact on the financial position, business nor operation of the Group," the filing said. 

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