A second defendant in the criminal trial also featuring former Suncity Group junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa has admitted to involvement in so-called ‘multiplier’ betting business.
But Tim Chau Chun Hee told Macau’s Court of First Instance on Friday that he “did not take part in operating” such activity, and had been only a investor.
Mr Tim Chau is no relation of Mr Alvin Chau, but said in court he had for some years worked for the latter as a consultant, before taking over the leadership of UO Group Co Ltd, a Macau-based firm with business including media and technology interests.
That company – and another, called Soonest Technology Ltd, which was said to have offices in Macau, Zhuhai and Hong Kong – were mentioned in the trial indictment as being under Mr Tim Chau.
A total of 21 defendants is accused of illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering.
One of the defendants, Cheong Chi Kin, has already admitted operational involvement in multiplier business.
With the multiplier, a form of ‘under-the-table’ gambling, the bet declared publicly at the casino table actually represents a wager made privately that can be a multiple many times the ‘official’ one, thus avoiding paying on the wager made privately Macau’s effective 39-percent tax rate on casino gross gaming revenue.
Mr Tim Chau admitted on Friday in front of prosecutor Lau U Hou and trial judge Lou Ieng Ha, that he had “shares” in entities dedicated to multiplier bet business, and described himself as an “investor” in those entities.
The defendant said multiplier bets had been a “prevalent” practice in Macau.
He added: “So I thought as long as I did not take part in operating it [multiplier bets] and introducing clients to it – but merely acted as a shareholder putting my money in and waiting for [business] results at home – there should be no problem.”
Mr Tim Chau further stated: “Now that I know it [multiplier betting] is wrong, I will assume the legal responsibility for it.”
The indictment had said that in the allegedly-illegal gambling group established by Mr Alvin Chau, the role of Mr Tim Chau was to handle multiplier bets, and provide telecommunications support for such bets, as well as ‘proxy’ betting and ‘online’ betting, via Soonest Technology.
In Friday’s session, Mr Tim Chau claimed to the court he had difficulty even in understanding the differences between ‘online’ and ‘proxy’ betting.
Both are sometimes referred to generally as ‘remote gambling’ as they are not done in person. The key difference is typically that proxy betting is done by bets being placed on a land-based casino table by a middle person or ‘proxy’, for someone not physically present in the casino, but giving instructions over the phone or other electronic device.
Mr Tim Chau said that in general terms, Soonest Technology’s role was as a technology provider, to facilitate messaging for clients. It had no role in the content of such messages.
Cheong Chi Kin, the defendant who on Thursday had conceded operational involvement in multiplier bet business in Macau, formally admitted on Friday – in response to Chao Koc Keong, a lawyer representing him – such involvement had been over a long period, and said he was “regretful”.
But he denied committing fraud against the Macau authorities in relation to the avoidance of taxation linked to the multiplier practice.
Mr Cheong said it had been a private arrangement between VIP patrons and their agents, without any involvement by casino operators, and that as such, wins and losses via the multiplier had also been settled privately between the relevant parties.
Mr Cheong also said he did not admit the crime of having taken part in a criminal association led by Mr Alvin Chau.
When questioned by the latter’s lawyer, Leong Weng Pun, on “whether a multiplier bet is equivalent as an act to where agents act in concert with patrons to cheat casino operators”, Mr Cheong answered “No”.
That defendant further suggested that multiplier bets of themselves did not involve “cheating” in the gambling process.
Mr Cheong did admit to lawyer Mr Leong that Mr Alvin Chau had for a “very few times” referred clients for multiplier bets.
The defendant was questioned by Pedro Leal, another lawyer representing Mr Alvin Chau, regarding whether to his knowledge any people from Suncity had ever benefitted directly – income wise – from his multiplier bet business. Mr Cheong said “No”.
In another development on Friday, the judge said she would set a deadline of October 25 for Macau casino operators to decide whether they wished to submit a compensation claim against the defendants as a linked civil matter at the end of the criminal proceedings, or to initiate a completely separate civil action.
Macau operators Wynn Macau Ltd, MGM China Holdings Ltd, SJM Holdings Ltd, Sands China Ltd and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd have all indicated they wish to claim compensation in relation to losses linked to the curtailment of VIP business in the Macau market.
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