Macau’s Judiciary Police announced on Tuesday the arrest in the city of 15 mainland Chinese for alleged involvement in loan-sharking operations targeting casino gamblers.
The police suspected those detained were connected to a scheme that charged gamblers extremely high interest rates. The aggregate principal amount loaned was RMB7 million (MOP8.2 million).
The 15 suspects were believed to have targeted players at Cotai casinos, said local media reports citing the Judiciary Police.
Police think the suspects are linked to an alleged loan-sharking gang the authorities had disrupted earlier this year, further reported local news outlets. Between March and June, a total of 21 people were arrested on suspicion of involvement with that gang.
On Tuesday the police said they were still investigating the whereabouts of the alleged ringleader of the suspected loan-sharking operation.
The office of Macau’s Secretary for Security reported a rise in the recorded number of gaming-related crimes in the first three months of this year. There were 424 such cases recorded by the police during the period, a jump of 15.2 percent in year-on-year terms. The Macau authorities label cases as gaming-related when they take place inside a casino or its surroundings.
During the first three months this year, a total of 105 cases of gaming-related suspected unlawful detention were recorded; an increase of 18 percent year-on-year. Unlawful detention cases are typically associated in Macau with loan-sharking connected to gambling.
Suspected cases of usury – unlawful lending of money – declined by 16 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, to 84 instances, according to the official data.
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Vitaly Umansky, Louis Li and Kelsey Zhu
Analysts at brokerage Sanford C. Bernstein Ltd