The Macau Judiciary Police last year opened a total of 15 investigations into cases involving alleged rogue UnionPay handheld terminals. Of those, 13 cases were passed to the Public Prosecutions Office for further action, Portuguese news agency Lusa and local broadcaster Radio Macau reported on Tuesday, citing data from the Macau Judiciary Police.
The police arrested 43 people as part of the investigations – 37 were from mainland China, the media outlets reported.
According to previous police reports, illegally modified handheld UnionPay terminals, also known as point of sale (POS) units, are typically tampered with in such a way that the UnionPay network identifies them as being registered and operated in mainland China, where transaction fees charged by the China UnionPay system are much lower than in Macau.
A number of investment analysts covering the Macau casino market have commented previously that purchase – and instant return in exchange for a cash refund – of high-value goods at jewellers and pawnshops in the city, was one route for mainland Chinese gamblers to skirt strict controls on export from the mainland of Chinese currency.
UnionPay International Co Ltd, a subsidiary focusing on transactions outside mainland China, including Macau and Hong Kong, missed out on around MOP2.9 million (US$359,000) in fees for the deals allegedly done on rogue terminals in Macau last year.
A tighter, real-time monitoring system for payments made via UnionPay bank cards in Macau was unveiled in December 2015 by the local monetary authority.
China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange announced in late 2017 that from January this year mainland Chinese would be restricted to an annual CNY100,000- (US$15,925-) limit per person for cash withdrawals when using overseas automated teller machines (ATMs). In the past, China’s regulatory definition of “overseas” transactions has included ones performed in Macau.
In December 2016, the Monetary Authority of Macao already had set a limit of MOP5,000 (US$626) or HKD5,000 per transaction for withdrawals in the city’s ATMs using bank cards issued by mainland China banks.
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Number of suspicious transaction reports filed by Macau gaming operators in full-year 2021