Asia Junket Supremo Alvin Chau Jailed For 18 Years

January 19, 2023
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Alvin Chau, formerly the most powerful figure in Asia’s junket networks, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in Macau for organised crime, gambling and fraud offences, while eight of his colleagues received jail terms of between nine and 15 years.

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Alvin Chau, formerly the most powerful figure in Asia’s junket networks, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison in Macau for organised crime, gambling and fraud offences, while eight of his colleagues received jail terms of between nine and 15 years.

Chau, 48, the creator and supremo of the once ubiquitous, now-shuttered Suncity junket, was found guilty on 162 charges of criminal association leadership, illegal gambling activity in licensed properties and proxy operations, and fraud and attempted fraud.

A three-judge panel of Macau’s Court of First Instance on Wednesday (January 18) also found Chau not guilty of 126 counts of illegal gambling activity and one count of money laundering, with most of these charges invalidated by statutes of limitations.

Chau and six of the other jailed defendants were ordered to pay just over HK$6.5bn ($830m) in fines to the government, plus compensation to five of Macau’s six casino concessionaires amounting to some HK$2bn.

Seven other Suncity executives and employees were jailed, including information technology boss Celestino Ali, who received 15 years, four specialists in business development, who were jailed between nine and 15 years, shadow betting operations boss Cheong Chi Kin (15 years), and finance head Philip Wong (15 years).

Also jailed was Chau associate Tim Chau, CEO of Macau-based media company UO Group, with charges similar to Chau’s.

The court issued suspended sentences to Suncity’s head of accounting, assistant vice president of VIP service and a third employee, as well as to an affiliated junket agent. Eight defendants were acquitted.

Pedro Leal, one of Chau’s legal team, said he will recommend that Chau appeal the decision, citing “insufficient evidence” against his client. Chau had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

But the momentum of the investigation and the at times aggressive court hearing, and ongoing investigations into alleged illegal gaming activity in mainland China, likely mark the end of the road for Chau and his circle.

The court ruled that Chau and Suncity promoted illegal online gambling to its mainland Chinese customers through its registered Philippine operations, consistent with accusations in state-controlled Chinese media in mid-2019, a report whose publication marked the beginning of the downfall of Chau and his empire.

Chau and ten other suspects were eventually arrested in November 2021, with Chau detained in Macau’s Coloane prison ever since.

The court also found that systematic side-betting or “under the table” gambling activity had been proven at properties belonging to each of Macau’s six concessionaires, with the exception of Melco Resorts & Entertainment. Such bets, relying on multipliers of the visible table bet, are agreed to between junket agents and gamblers without the knowledge of the casino or the government.

At the height of its power, Hong Kong-listed Suncity had become a diversified international group, with gaming interests in Macau, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Australia and elsewhere supplemented by significant hospitality and entertainment investments in Hong Kong and around the world.

Chau’s former junket boss rival, Levo Chan, remains on trial in Macau on similar charges of illegal gambling activity after his arrest in January 2022.

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