Macau’s Court of Second Instance has confirmed the 18-year sentence for Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, former boss of now-defunct Macau casino junket Suncity Group Ltd. Some of the other defendants had their sentences reduced, according to a ruling published on Friday.
Mr Chau (pictured in a file photo) and some of the other defendants were acquitted of fraud charges, and will not have to pay – as a way of compensation – HKD8.67 billion (US$1.08 billion) to the Macau government and a number of the city’s casino operators, according to the latest ruling.
Mr Chau and Philip Wong Pak Ling, the latter identified as the former head of Suncity Group’s finance department, were however convicted on aggravated money laundering charges. The pair and seven other defendants were ordered to pay nearly HKD25.51 billion to the Macau government as a way of compensation for gains from illicit gambling operations and from profits made via money laundering activities, stated the appeal court.
In mid-January, Mr Chau was sentenced to 18 years in prison in aggregate. Mr Chau, now aged 49, founder of Suncity Group, had been indicted – with 20 other people – for illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering. He had not been convicted for money laundering at the Court of First Instance.
In its recent ruling, the Court of Second Instance maintained the sentencing for nine defendants, including Mr Chau, in relation to the crime of criminal association, illicit gambling, proxy betting, and under-the-table betting, referred to by some commentators and government officials as the “multiplier”.
With the multiplier, the bet denominated at the casino gaming table actually represents a bet made privately that can be a multiple many times the ‘official’ one, thus avoiding paying on some bets Macau’s effective tax rate on casino gross gaming revenue.
The appeal court considered that the group led by Mr Chau obtained illicit gains of just above HKD17.66 billion from illegal, “under the table” betting activities; and at least HKD7.21 billion through online or proxy betting.
Mr Chau, Philip Wong, and Cheung Ling Ling were also said to have obtained just below HKD617.0 million and CNY17.0 million (US$2.3 million), respectively, in profits for Suncity Group via money laundering activities.
Ms Cheung – who in January was acquitted by the lower court – was sentenced by the Court of Second Instance to five years in prison as a co-conspirator regarding the money laundering charges.
Ms Cheung, also known as Zhang Ningning, was said to have been in control of asset management on behalf of Suncity Group. She has already been sentenced to seven years in jail in Wenzhou, mainland China, in a process linked to allegations concerning Suncity.
Four defendants had their sentences reduced from 15 to 12-and-a-half years, according to last week’s ruling. They were: Philip Wong; Cheong Chi Kin, who had worked as a “junket agent” for Suncity Group, and that admitted during the trial to conducting multiplier bet business in VIP rooms run by the junket group; Tim Chau Chun Hee, who during the trial admitted that he had invested in entities dedicated to multiplier bet business; and Ali Celestino, described in court as a former Suncity Group executive helping to run the group’s information technology.
The defendants can still appeal to Macau’s Court of Final Appeal.
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