Suspicious transaction reports filed by Macau casinos increased by 14.4 percent year-on-year in the first half of 2016, said the city’s Financial Intelligence Office in its latest newsletter.
The city’s gaming sector remained the main source for such transaction reports in the first six months of 2016, accounting for 780 cases, or 69.7 percent of the total. Most of the other cases were filed by financial sector operators.
A total of 1,247 suspicious transaction reports were filed by the Macau casino sector in full-year 2015.
The lodging of such reports does not in itself indicate criminal activity has occurred, but does indicate that a transaction has been earmarked for closer scrutiny.
Common types of suspicious transactions reported by Macau’s casinos include chip conversion with minimal or no gambling activity, and chip conversion or marker redemption on behalf of third parties.
Under the rules on reporting of suspicious transactions, Macau casinos are required to report to the Financial Intelligence Office any wagering, gaming credit or gaming promotion activity that, “based on [their] nature, complexity, the amount involved or in a non-habitual manner indicates any activities of money laundering or terrorist financing”.
Casinos in Macau are also required to report to the local regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, high value transactions worth over MOP500,000 (US$62,500).
The Financial Intelligence Office received 1,118 suspicious transaction reports in the first half of 2016, up by 22.9 percent in year-on-year terms.
The body sent a total of 135 cases to the Public Prosecutions Office for further investigation; that was more than the 125 cases sent for further investigation in full-year 2015.
There were no details in the report on the number of cases submitted to the Public Prosecutions Office that led to prosecutorial action, nor on how many of the cases submitted for further investigation were related to the gaming sector.
A recent focus for the Macau government has been tighter controls on the large volumes of money flowing through the city’s casinos via VIP gambling. Such play is typically funded by credit issued by government-licensed gaming promoters – commonly referred to as junkets. They also arrange – via agents and sub-agents – collections on player gambling losses.
In October last year, the local casino regulator said junkets were being subjected to tighter accounting rules with effect from this year.
But the Macau authorities have so far resisted repeated calls by the U.S. government to reduce the reporting threshold for “large” transactions in the city’s casinos to the equivalent of US$3,000, which the U.S. says would “bring it in line with international standards”.
Macau’s gaming regulator said in May it had extensively revised the anti-money laundering rules for the sector, but kept the threshold set for casinos to report “large” transactions at MOP500,000.
Last week, the local government proposed a currency declaration requirement for all travellers to and from the jurisdiction. According to the proposed measure, people entering or leaving Macau who have cash or other “negotiable monetary instruments” – for instance, cheques payable to the holder, travellers’ cheques or gold coins – valued at MOP120,000 or more in their possession must submit a declaration form on the fact to the Macau Customs Service.
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"This near-term lull in VIP volume growth [in Macau] could improve if there is a face saving trade agreement between China and Trump, and if China pumps more liquidity into its system to prop up its GDP"
Japanese brokerage Nomura