(Bloomberg) -- Macau’s judiciary police said the head of junket operator Suncity Group confessed to establishing overseas gambling platforms and carrying out illegal virtual betting activities, as authorities presented evidence of wrongdoing after a two-year investigation.
Suncity Chief Executive Officer Alvin Chau has been detained as part of the probe, along with other suspects, police said in a live-streamed press conference on Sunday. The group of 11 people admitted some allegations but refused to cooperate in some other investigations, authorities said.
Macau authorities in September proposed an increase in government supervision of casino operators, signaling tighter control over the world’s largest gambling hub amid Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on money laundering and currency outflows. Suncity is Macau’s biggest junket operator and Chau’s arrest marks the first time such a high-profile figure in the gaming industry has been targeted, suggesting an escalation of the crackdown.
Suncity didn’t immediately respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comments outside of regular business hours.
The arrest of Chau could pose a threat to Suncity’s junket license, up for a renewal soon. Macau’s gaming regulator reviews the licenses annually and will unveil the list of successful junket applicants in January. Suncity accounts for more than 40% of the city’s high-rolling betting volumes.
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Evidence presented during a press conference on Sunday included about $385,000 linked to the formation of the criminal group, money laundering and illicit gambling. The suspects also transferred illegal capital via accounts in Suncity’s VIP rooms in Macau and underground banks. Investigations are still ongoing and the police are pursuing other suspects, they said.
The only place in the world’s second-largest economy where casinos are allowed, Chinese punters have fueled Macau’s gaming sector to six times the size of Las Vegas.
Police in the Chinese city of Wenzhou said late Friday they had been probing since July the operation of casinos on mainland China, which is a crime. Their investigation showed Chau headed the syndicate, which had a network of 199 shareholder-level representatives and more than 12,000 agents for gambling promotion.
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Macau police said its investigation is separate from that of Wenzhou’s authorities, and they don’t have details of the other probe. The suspects will be subject the legal process based on Macau’s laws, police said in response to a question if they would be transferred to mainland China.
When asked whether Macau police’s decision is related to that of the Chinese city of Wenzhou, which approved an arrest warrant for Chau the Macau police said they don’t have any investigation details of Wenzhou police’s allegations and the decision on Macau side was based on their investigation since 2019.
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