Macau’s Judiciary Police announced on Monday the arrest over the weekend of 71 people allegedly involved in a long-time loan-sharking operation targeted at people gambling in the city’s casinos.
Police estimated the enterprise involved the illegal loaning of at least HKD108 million (US$13.8 million) in aggregate over a period of three years, resulting in a profit thought to be HKD32 million.
The alleged group’s members were said to be from Macau, mainland China, Hong Kong and Thailand. The boss was described as a mainland China man, and was also detained during the police operation.
At a briefing on Monday, officers said police suspected the loan sharking syndicate was linked to a Chinese organised crime gang – groups usually known as triads – reported Macau Post Daily newspaper. The group is suspected of involvement in a series of illegal activities, including loan-sharking, unlawful detention, assault and theft.
The arrests followed raids on Saturday at 23 different locations, said police. Items seized included documents detailing purported loans and computers.
The alleged loan-sharking group was said to have had strict division of assigned tasks among its members. These included the identification of gamblers that were potential borrowers; accounting; and the issuing of credits. It was also said to have offices for accounting and training purposes, and to ‘discipline’ members who failed to comply with the organisation’s rules.
The police think the loan-sharking group might have been in operation since 2016, using a VIP room in a casino in the Macau peninsula as a cover for its operations. The police did not disclose the name of the casino venue used by the group.
Police stated it received intelligence on the matter in November 2016, and had then started a series of investigations.
In calendar year 2018, gaming-related cases of loan-sharking rose by 29.4 percent year-on-year to 554, according to data from the police.
In 2018, a total of 308 cases of gaming-related suspected unlawful detention was recorded, reflecting a one-third decline in year-on-year terms. Such cases are typically associated in Macau with loan-sharking connected to gambling.
Commenting on the overall decrease in cases of gaming-related suspected unlawful detention in Macau last year, the Judiciary Police stated in January the decline was related to efforts to curb loan-sharking activities. This had in likelihood reduced the number of scenarios where indebted gamblers were held unlawfully by their purported creditors.
Police announced in June the arrest of 113 people allegedly involved in a long-time loan-sharking operation targeted at people gambling in the city’s casinos. Police officers described at the time the enforcement action as the largest number of arrests in the Macao Special Administrative Region for a single case, since than handover from Portuguese administration in 1999.
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”The Macau government is not aiming to trivialise or drive out the junket sector, but to regulate the sector so that it would not hurt Macau’s reputation”
Alvin Chau Cheok Wa
Chief executive of privately-held VIP junket business Suncity Group