Cheong Chi Kin, a fellow defendant named by former Macau junket boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa and by a third accused person as having been aware of so-called ‘multiplier’ betting business in Macau, spoke in court on Thursday to give some of his part of the story.
Mr Cheong told prosecutor Lai U Hou, at Macau’s Court of First Instance, that he was a “friend” of former Suncity Group junket boss Mr Chau, and had worked as a “junket agent” for privately-held Suncity Group. Mr Cheong also described himself as a food and beverage-business owner.
In response to a question from the prosecutor, Mr Cheong admitted he had been linked to entities specialising in the handling of multiplier bet business, which had employed “a few dozen people”. But he added those entities had “no relationship” with Suncity Group, although he later admitted to receiving administrative support from people that were workers of Suncity Group.
Mr Cheong also admitted to conducting multiplier bet business in VIP rooms run by Suncity Group, as well as in rooms run by other junket operators in Macau.
He added that Mr Chau had referred potential clients to him, interested in engaging in multiplier bets. Mr Cheong stated the former boss of Suncity Group was aware that multiplier bet business was taking place inside the junket operator’s VIP rooms; the defendant added that multiplier business bets were, at the time, widespread in Macau’s gaming industry.
Macau’s Public Prosecutions Office has indicted Mr Chau and 20 other people including Mr Cheong, for illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering.
Another of those accused, Ali Celestino – described in court as a former Suncity Group executive helping to run its information technology (IT) – had given evidence on Wednesday indicating a computerised setup used to record multiplier bets had been developed for Mr Cheong.
In Thursday’s session, Mr Ali said he understood Mr Cheong to have been a “shareholder” in Suncity Group, having on Wednesday referred to Mr Cheong as a “business partner” of Mr Chau.
Mr Chau for his part, had some things to say on Thursday regarding what had been aired in court on Wednesday.
“I have to reiterate that I don’t know about the ‘operating system’” said to have been set up to record multiplier bets, stated Mr Chau.
He added: “Suncity’s own [IT] system… was not compatible at all with any multiplier-bet system or so-called ‘operating department data’” setup.
Mr Chau further stated: “I did not mention that I had allowed Ali Celestino to accept the request from Cheong Chi Kin to give him [Cheong] a [multiplier bet] system.”
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 some bets Macau’s effective 39-percent tax rate on casino gross gaming revenue.
Mr Chau told the court that in all the conversations he had had with Mr Ali “over eight or nine” years of the latter’s relationship with Suncity Group, there was “no talk on any multiplier bet system”.
Mr Chau also added though, that Suncity had not placed any kind of ban on Mr Ali somehow having contact with Mr Cheong.
In response to questions from Pedro Leal, a lawyer simultaneously representing Mr Chau and Mr Ali, the latter said he personally had not been engaged in any multiplier-bet activities.
Mr Ali reiterated that he had no idea about that illicit gambling format when he was hired by Suncity in 2013. He only knew about “private bets done amongst gamblers” as of circa 2017.
Mr Leal also asked Mr Ali why he helped Mr Cheong devise a computer system called “Opsman”, without having to go via Mr Chau. Mr Ali said that his job merely involved helping the Suncity junket group “shareholders” that requested IT support.
Opsman was identified by the prosecution as a system that contained multiplier-bet records.
Mr Ali said he helped link Mr Cheong to a mainland China-based technology company said to have been involved in developing Opsman, though it was not clarified in court if the mainland Chinese firm knew the purported end use for that IT.
In other evidence, Mr Ali said he had understood that Mr Cheong was very interested in a software application for internal use at Suncity Group, called “SunPeople”, and which was described in court as a precursor to Opsman.
Mr Ali stated that after helping Mr Cheong to test Opsman, he left the whole system entirely with Mr Cheong, and had no further involvement with it.
Mr Ali was asked by lawyer Mr Leal about a prosecution suggestion that Mr Ali had helped Suncity Group delete “sensitive” information to avoid it being detected during an annual inspection by the local casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, a body also known as DICJ.
Mr Ali said his IT department had just been responsible for helping other Suncity Group departments “add or remove” any functions in their systems, by forwarding their request to a Hong Kong company involved in developing Suncity’s IT systems.
Suncity Group’s IT department had “no power” to ask why other departments of the group might wish either to “conceal” or “add” any IT system components, he said.
The case continues.
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