The Chinese authorities on Wednesday released from detention 10 employees of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd, according to Reuters news agency. They had been given jail sentences by a Shanghai court on June 26, based on allegations of “gambling-related crimes”.
Four employees were released from a detention facility in Shanghai, confirmed a Reuters reporter at the scene. Among those freed was Australian national Jerry Xuan.
There was no information on whether fellow Australian Jason O’Connor, Crown Resorts’ executive vice president for international VIP business, was among those gaining their freedom. He had been given a 10-month sentence by the Shanghai court, one month more than Mr Xuan.
Reuters quoted a person who identified himself as a lawyer for family members of detainees – but who declined to give his name – as saying six of the 10 freed Crown Resorts staff had been released from a second detention facility in Shanghai.
A total of 19 employees from Crown Resorts were detained by mainland Chinese authorities in the autumn of 2016. Several investment analysts stated in notes commenting on the case that the detentions were connected to marketing activities for the recruitment by Crown Resorts of high-value players in mainland China.
Of the 19 detained, 16 were eventually given jail sentences by a Shanghai court in June: 11 were sentenced to a period of incarceration of 9 months and five to a period of 10 months. The sentences were backdated to October 2016 when the defendants were first detained by Chinese authorities, meaning they only had a few more weeks to serve as convicted prisoners.
The 16 jailed defendants were also collectively fined a total of RMB8.62 million (US$1.26 million). Crown Resorts pledged to pay the amount “ex gratia”, the firm had said in a filing following the court decision.
China-based Australian nationals Xuan Peng, also known as Jerry Xuan, and Pan Dan, also known as Jane Pan, were each sentenced to nine months in jail, said Crown Resorts at the time.
With eight months already served prior to the sentence being handed out, Mr Xuan only had one month remaining to serve in detention.
In May, Crown Resorts said it had completed the disposal of its remaining stake in Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd, a company that owns and operates casino properties in Macau and in the Philippines.
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”We have not had discussions about the concession renewal with the [Macau] government. We have taken the view that if we continue to deliver on what we expect is the expectations from operators, then we will be treated fairly”
Chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts, the parent of Macau casino operator MGM China