Junket mogul Alvin Chau among 11 caught for organised crime, illegal gambling, money laundering

2021-11-29 04:08     BY Camy Tam    Comment:0

Eleven people were arrested separately in various commercial buildings in Nape and a flat in Coloane early on Saturday for alleged membership of a criminal organisation, illegal gambling operations, and money laundering, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Chong Kam Leong said at a special press conference at the PJ headquarters yesterday.

According to a report by national news agency Xinhua, the 11 people include Macau’s casino junket mogul Alvin Chau Cheok Wa (周焯華) whom the national news agency identified by his full name. The local police and Macau Government Information Bureau (GCS) merely identified him by his surname. Customarily, local police identify suspects by their surnames only.

Chong said the 11 people comprised nine arrestees and two suspects – nine males and two females, 10 from Macau and a male from Hong Kong.

Chong identified them as a 47-year-old businessman surnamed Chau, while the remainder told the police that they are “senior executives” – a 37-year-old man surnamed Si Tou, a 56-year-old man surnamed Cheong, a 38-year-old man surnamed Ma, a 46-year-old man surnamed Cheong, a 37-year-old man surnamed Leong, a 30-year-old woman surnamed Ho, a 36-year-old man surnamed Lui, a 40-year-old Hong Kong man surnamed Chow, a 57-year-old man surnamed Vong and a 37-year-old woman surnamed Wong.

According to Chong, the Judiciary Police have been gathering intelligence since August 2019 about an organised-crime gang allegedly headed by Chau whose organisation is operating local casino VIP rooms which set up online gambling platforms overseas and looked for mainland customers to carry out illegal online gambling. The gang allegedly transferred the illegal profits through the customers’ VIP accounts via “underground banks” in an attempt to cover up the illegal transfer of the ill-gotten money.

Chong said the Judiciary Police launched an in-depth investigation in April last year. They decided to take action on Saturday morning and arrested the 11 people in a number of units in various commercial buildings in Nape as well as a residential flat in Coloane. A large quantity of evidence such as the equivalent of three million patacas in various currencies in cash, accounting books, documents as well as a number of computers were seized in the operation. Under questioning, all of them admitted to setting up the online gambling platforms overseas and carrying out online gambling and criminal activities but they refused to reveal any other information to the police.

The case came to light after the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in Wenzhou city, Zhejiang province, had issued an arrest warrant for a person identified as Zhou Zhuohua on Friday. According to Macau’s customary Cantonese-Portuguese transliteration system, the name is spelt Chau Cheok Wa.

Statement by Wenzhou police

A detailed statement by the PSB in Wenzhou also named Chau’s Suncity Gaming Promotion Company Limited. The statement mentioned that Chau has been running casino junket operations in Macau since 2007 and that he set up online gambling platforms in the Philippines in 2016. The statement also said that Chau’s “crime syndicate” comprised 199 shareholder-level agents, more than 12,000 gambling agents and over 80,000 gamblers.

According to the statement, “the amount of money involved was exceptionally large, seriously damaging our country’s social management order.” The police in Wenzhou urged Chau to give himself up as soon as possible “in order to get a lenient treatment.”

The statement also accused Chau of recruiting mainlanders to work as shareholder-level agents and gambling agents, organising mainlanders to take part in cross-border gambling activities, apart from granting them gambling loans and providing transportation services.

The statement also accused Chau of setting up an asset management company in the mainland, collecting gambling debts there, assisting gamblers in cross-border money transactions and providing underground banking services.

According to local, Hong Kong and international newswire reports, one of those who were taken to the PJ headquarters on Saturday for questioning was Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, the founder and CEO of Suncity, one of Macau’s major casino junket operators.

Chau is widely known in gambling and entertainment media circles by his nickname, Sai Mei Wa (洗米華).

When asked by a reporter during yesterday’s press conference whether the local police operation was related to Chau’s arrest warrant announced by the Wenzhou Public Security Bureau (PSB) on Friday, Chong said that the local police had no information “in hand” on the Wenzhou case, adding that the case has been under investigation by the Judiciary Police based on intelligence gathered since August 2019. According to Chong, the Judiciary Police are still continuing their investigation into the case, looking for other persons of interest.

Following the press conference, which began at 2 p.m. and lasted about 13 minutes and was telecast live by public broadcaster TDM, the Judiciary Police (PJ) transferred the 11 people from their headquarters in two vans – one for Chau only – to the nearby Public Prosecutions Office (MP) in Zape for further investigation.

According to Macau’s Portuguese-style legal system, suspects are not charged with a crime by the police but by the Public Prosecution. It is up to an examining magistrate to decide on a suspect’s bail and other pre-trial conditions.

Local govt statement

Meanwhile, the Macau government said in a statement on Saturday afternoon that local police are questioning the head of a local junket company surnamed Chau who is wanted by their counterparts in the mainland for a string of alleged gambling-related offences.

According to the statement, which did not fully identify the person of interest nor his company, other people “involved” in the case were also being questioned by the local police.

The statement stressed that all those working in Macau’s gaming sector “must rigorously abide by the national and local laws,” adding that the Macau authorities are pursuing a “zero tolerance approach” towards suspected breaches of the law.

The statement also underlined that while the current law on junket operators is “relatively perfect”, future amendments to Macau’s gaming law would further strengthen the supervision of gaming operators and their activities. The government launched a public consultation of its amendment bill earlier this year.

The statement also said that the local government has been notified by the relevant law enforcement agencies in Wenzhou that the people’s prosecution office in the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, issued an arrest warrant for a suspect surnamed Chau.

Licensed ‘gaming promoters’

Junket operators are intermediaries between high-rolling gamblers, extending them credit and reportedly also collecting their gambling debts. Junkets – officially known locally as “gaming promoters” – also run VIP gambling rooms on behalf of Macau’s casino operators. Junkets, which are licensed by the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau (DICJ), reportedly employ, directly and indirectly, thousands of people in Macau.

Local gaming news outlet GGRAsia on Saturday quoted a Suncity spokesperson as saying that “all businesses are normally operating in accordance with the law and under the supervision of the Macau Special Administrative Region Government.”

Meanwhile, global newswire Reuters pointed out in a report on Saturday that Suncity’s Hong Kong-listed company, Suncity Group Holdings Ltd (1383.HK), does not include its junket operations.

The 11 hooded suspects are escorted by Judiciary Police (PJ) officers from the PJ headquarters to two PJ vehicles in Zape yesterday afternoon to be transported to the nearby headquarters of the Public Prosecutions Office (MP). Photos: Camy Tam

Evidence seized in the operation such as various currencies equivalent to 3 million patacas in cash, 8 smartphones, a number of USBs, computers, documents as well as accounting books is displayed at the Judiciary Police (PJ) headquarters yesterday.

A large amount of cash in different currencies equivalent to three million patacas is displayed at the Judiciary Police (PJ) headquarters yesterday.

Macau junket mogul Alvin Chau Cheok Wa (centre) is escorted by PJ officers to a van yesterday afternoon to be transported to the nearby Public Prosecutions Office (MP) in Zape for further investigations and possible arraignment. As of 2:45 a.m. today, there was still no announcement by the Public Prosecutions Office about the case involving Chau and 10 others. Photo: Xinhua/Cheong Kam Ka

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