A division head at Macau’s casino regulator told a court session on Monday that it had not found any suggestion of illicit activities at former Macau former junket operator, Suncity Group, based on the fiscal statements it periodically submitted to the regulator in a period from 2016 onward.
Wong Long Peng, head of the compliance audit division at Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, also known as DICJ, was giving evidence at the Court of First Instance.
She was quizzed by the prosecution in relation to the indictment naming former Suncity Group boss Alvin Chau Cheok Wa. He and 20 other defendants face charges of illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering. Mr Chau is also charged with leading a criminal group. The indictment had stated the junket business led by Mr Chau had for years run in Macau a form of under-the-table betting for high rollers, known to industry commentators as the “multiplier”.
Ms Wong was questioned by prosecutor Lai U Hou on whether her regulatory team had, during regular inspection work on the Suncity Group junket business and its fiscal statements, found any information that suggested it had engaged in the activities of online betting, proxy betting, or multiplier bets. To the question, Ms Wong stated: “No.”
The DICJ official described the spot checks her division conducted on all Macau’s licensed junkets, including Suncity Group, following the stricter accounting rules established for the junket sector that came into effect from 2016. The regulator had since then periodically asked for fiscal reports from the licensed junket entities, and also occasionally arranged with the junket entities to check the cages at their VIP gaming clubs inside the city’s casinos, said Ms Wong.
Fiscal data submitted by the licensed junkets included information on their income, any loans issued to their patrons, and patron deposits lodged with them, Ms Wong explained.
“The purpose of our inspection work [on the junkets] was to see if they had disclosed all the financial figures that they ought to. From the information we obtained from the casino concessionaires – which contained their commissions payout [to junkets] – we have not spotted any big discrepancies [to the junkets' fiscal statement],” Ms Wong told the court.
Regulator did ‘inspection’ not ‘audit‘
The DICJ official did however note that her division had only received fiscal information directly from Suncity Group, and had not requested any third-party audit report on their financial results.
“We do not use the word ‘audit’. If you are talking about real audit work, it involves following the company to see their whole set of figures…” said Ms Wong, when questioned by Mr Chau’s lawyer Leong Hon Man on whether the regulator had audited Suncity Group’s fiscal results.
The DICJ official added: “The reason why I used the word ‘inspection’,” on Suncity Group and the other licensed junkets, “is that during 2016 and 2017 there were some 200 junket entities, while our team had only four or five people. So we did what was doable for us, and hence we called our work inspection, not audit.”
Ms Wong also told the court that during the course of her work at the regulator, she had not received any information that suggested Suncity Group had run proxy bets or online bets. “But I have to stress that any complaints on such bets – if that happened – were handled by another department [at DICJ],” she said.
The defendants in the case are accused of running a criminal syndicate that cheated the Macau government out of about HKD8.26 billion (US$1.05 billion) in tax revenue from 2013 to 2021.
The indictment alleges that from March 2013, to March last year, the group led by Mr Chau ran multiplier bets with a value of HKD823.8 billion, generating illicit gains of “a minimum” of HKD21.5 billion. The alleged multiplier scheme also meant that Macau’s six licensed gaming operators lost out on as much as HKD2.28 billion in gaming revenue, according to calculations by the city’s casino regulator, that were included in the indictment.
The trial continues.
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