The respective public security departments of mainland China’s Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces in the northeast of the country, say a recent joint operation broke up a so-called “cross-border gambling” ring believed to have “illicitly organised” Chinese citizens to gamble at the Tigre de Cristal casino in the neighbouring Russian Far East. The property is located in the Primorye Integrated Entertainment Zone near Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok.
The Heilongjiang and Jilin authorities carried information about the operation on their respective official websites, following a press briefing on the case last week. The police briefing was also reported by Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua.
The two provinces said they had identified in total 142 suspects, and sent 75 for prosecution on suspicion of the “crime of establishing a casino”. Among the 75 suspects, were people with specialist roles including “gambling room shareholders”, “agents”, “gambling room employees”, and “travel agency management”, according to the press statements of the public security departments of both provinces.
Tigre de Cristal is controlled by Hong Kong-listed Summit Ascent Holdings Ltd. Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd is the controlling shareholder of Summit Ascent. After being contacted by GGRAsia, Suncity Group Holdings declined to comment on the matter.
The case involved capital used for gaming amounting to CNY1.6 billion (US$250 million), the security departments also said. Via the joint operation, the security units had identified 18 “shell companies” the authorities said were used for capital transfers. The police probe also identified four alleged “underground banks”, and “10 travel agencies” said to be serving gamblers that were customers of the ring.
The joint operation first stemmed from clues identified on July 22 last year, the authorities said. They had “investigated and collected evidence” from 2,963 people said to have participated in gambling activities, and the investigation process covered more than 30 cities across 12 provinces.
“According to our findings, since the launch of the Tigre de Cristal casino, the cross-border gambling criminal group have solicited Chinese citizens to gamble there via contracting VIP gambling rooms,” stated the security departments, noting that the solicitation was done via the format of “guided” trips for gambling purposes.
The security departments of both provinces did not identify the so-called “cross-border gambling criminal group”. But both remarked in their respective releases that the case had “hugely affected the stability” of public order on the borders between China and Russia, and “public interests”.
An amendment to China’s criminal law that came into effect on March 1, clarified that anyone who “organises” mainland Chinese for the purpose of overseas gambling will be deemed to have committed a criminal act.
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