Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd says neither the firm nor its controlling shareholder and chairman Alvin Chau Cheok Wa (pictured in a file photo) are currently being investigated by authorities in Australia.
The firm added that Mr Chau – who, according to media reports, had been blocked from entering Australia – had no plans to visit that country in the next 12 months.
The announcement was made in a filing to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday after market close. The company’s share price declined by 20.7 percent in Monday’s trading session, to HKD1.11 (US$0.14).
“The board [of Suncity Group Holdings] noticed certain media articles recently published in relation to Mr Chau Cheok Wa… in relation to, among others, investigation of certain Australian casinos,” stated the filing. “He is not aware of the said investigation of such Australian casinos.”
The document added: “Mr Chau clarifies that he is not subject to any Australian investigation as at the date of this announcement. The listed company would like to clarify that [Suncity Group Holdings together with its subsidiaries] has no business operations in Australia.”
Mr Chau is also the boss of privately-held Macau junket operator Suncity Group. The latter had consistently been identified for several years in commentary by investment analysts as the share leader for Macau VIP business. The firm runs 18 VIP gaming clubs in Macau, and 14 high-roller gambling clubs outside Macau namely in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea and Australia, according to previous company statements.
Suncity Group Holdings does not list on its balance sheet any of the Macau junket-related businesses, but is an investor in a large-scale casino resort complex in Hoi An, Vietnam, where it says it has a deal to manage gaming. The listed entity has stated it also has a deal to manage the gaming at a casino resort in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
Suncity Group Holdings also controls a nearly 28-percent stake in Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd, the promoter firm of Russian casino resort Tigre de Cristal. In June Mr Chau was named chairman of Summit Ascent.
An Australian criminal intelligence body announced last week a special investigation of gambling junket operators from overseas that partner with local casino operators in that country, looking at whether there are risks such business could be compromised by criminals.
News of the initiative from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) came amid accounts carried in that nation’s media that alleged Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd’s business had been used as a conduit for money laundering and Chinese organised crime activities via high-roller gambling.
Macau junket operator Suncity Group has been mentioned in Australian media reports as having a commercial presence in Australia, although reports have not specifically linked the brand to any ongoing investigations. According to corporate information presented by privately-held Suncity Group, the firm hosts a VIP gaming club in Crown Melbourne, and another one in The Star Sydney, the latter operated by The Star Entertainment Group Ltd.
A report published last week by The Age claimed that Suncity Group boss Mr Chau had been blocked from entering Australia. The news outlet cited official sources said to have spoken on condition of anonymity.
In comments to GGRAsia on Friday, the privately-held company said that its junket promoting business, operated in Macau, Australia and other geographical areas, was “rigorously licensed to perform in accordance with legal requirements and the licence conditions.”
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”While we recognise we have more work to do, we welcome ILGA’s indication today that Crown’s reform implementation is well-advanced towards suitability to operate gaming at Crown Sydney”
Executive chairman of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts