Macau’s Judiciary police said in a Wednesday briefing that as much as HKD280 million (US$35.8 million) in cash might have been lost between an aggregate of more than 200 deposit holders, after a sub-agent working with the Macau gambling junket system allegedly failed to return money when requested by some depositors.
Neither the junket or junkets with which the sub-agent was allegedly working – nor the casino venue or venues where the relevant VIP operations were being conducted – were identified by the police.
A specific case being investigated by the Judiciary Police involves reports filed respectively by 18 people, claiming to have lost in aggregate, HKD27 million, reported local media.
The sub-agent is believed to have been involved in arranging gaming business in Macau, from October 2019 to September last year. Sub-agents – known in the Macau regulatory system as “collaborators” – traditionally have connections in either mainland China or Hong Kong, and act as go-between for junkets that have traditionally hosted VIPs in Macau casino concessionaire premises.
The police briefing did not clarify if the sub-agent was an individual, or an entity. Police said so far two people in Macau – both Macau ID holders – had been detained; but one person – referred to as a “ringleader” – had already left Macau.
The two suspects were held prior to Wednesday’s media briefing. Evidence related to the case was gathered from two casinos in Cotai, and one office in the ZAPE district of Macau peninsula.
The two suspects had declined to cooperate with the inquiry, the Judiciary Police said. Both were being investigated over alleged scams, and involvement in a criminal group.
Two out of the 18 people that filed complaints to the police said they had had ‘earned’ 1-percent interest per month on their respective deposit, for three consecutive months. The briefing mentioned that the respective complaints were filed starting from September last year.
Allegations of junket representatives or sub-agents either failing to return depositor money – or actually disappearing from Macau with such funds – have been made before in Macau.
A well-publicised 2015 incident involved the alleged theft of large amounts of money lodged with Dore Entertainment Co Ltd – at the time an operator of Macau gambling junkets – by an ex-cage manager from a VIP room at the Wynn Macau casino hotel on the city’s peninsula.
Dore Entertainment never publicly disclosed how much the employee allegedly stole. An investment-institution report suggested an amount ranging from HKD200 million to HKD2.0 billion was involved in the case.
At the time, a number of people came forward claiming they had invested with Dore Entertainment on the promise of higher returns than those offered by regulated banks, but had lost their money because of the alleged incident.
The Macau government is currently working with the city’s Legislative Assembly, on a new regulatory framework that will include tighter rules on liability for the financial conduct and accountability of collaborators and of junkets, the latter known in the Macau regulatory system as gaming promoters.
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