Former Macau junket operator Suncity Group had no commercial need to seek illicit gains from under-the-table betting via the “multiplier”, as the company had a huge gaming business generating billions of patacas in taxation for the Macau government, said on Tuesday a defence lawyer representing the Suncity Group founder and former boss, Alvin Chau Cheok Wa.
Mr Chau and 20 other defendants at the city’s Court of First Instance face charges of illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering. Mr Chau is also charged with leading a criminal group. Closing arguments in the case started on Tuesday, as had been latterly scheduled.
Leong Hon Man, defending Mr Chau, said Suncity Group had not been somehow “running criminal business”. The junket operator had, since its inception, contributed “MOP300 billion” (US$37.3 billion) in gaming taxation to the Macau government, and achieved commission income that peaked at as much as “HKD20 billion” (US$2.56 billion) a year, Mr Leong claimed.
The rolling chip turnover that Suncity Group had achieved in its heyday had rivalled that of the “Macau casino operators”, Mr Leong added, referring latterly to the underlying gaming business of the concessionaires and sub-concessionaires.
He questioned whether a company with “huge income” like Suncity Group would need illicit gains from under-the-table betting. The “multiplier” is said to be a private arrangement where the face value of the player’s bet shown on a table is multiplied many times for the purposes of play and bet settlement. That system is also said to be a way of avoiding the near-40 percent tax that would otherwise be due on gross bets properly declared.
No incentive to risk legit business
Defence lawyer Mr Leong observed in his summing up, referring to evidence offered by the prosecution in the weeks-long trial, that “the Judiciary Police said the illicit gains generated from under-the-table betting amounted to over HKD21 billion [US$2.6 billion] throughout the years from 2013 to 2021″.
But he added: “Such amount is only minimal in proportion to the commission income it [Suncity Goup] had earned, which ranged from HKD14 billion to HKD20 billion [a year].”
The lawyer further noted that with the “scale” Suncity Group had, “and…the social status that Mr Chau had, would he really have risked – with the thousands of workers he employed – committing these illegal activities?”
The idea of such a criminal motive was ” illogical, which we hope the court will consider,” said the legal counsel.
Mr Leong also noted evidence given in court by staff from the city’s casino regulator, the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, a body also known as DICJ, that they had not found any “irregularities” or received an “complaints” against Suncity Group.
The Judiciary Police had been able to support their accusations against Mr Chau and Suncity Group for the under-the-table bets only via some financial data found on the company’s server, but did not have corroborating records of real table play from either the Macau casino regulator or the casino operators, to prove the the existence of under-the-table bets, Mr Leong also stressed.
During the trial, the Judiciary Police had also stated in court that several multiplier-bet groups had been formed over a number of years, and that some of them were directly operated by Suncity Group. Mr Leong countered that the police had admitted they had not yet been able to identify money transactions of the alleged multiplier bet groups, or to find out who were their purported shareholders. There was a lack of proof that Mr Chau had made gains from the alleged multiplier bet groups, Mr Leong argued.
The Tuesday session has also heard from a number of other lawyers concluding their respective defence of Mr Chau’s co-accused: including people that were formerly Suncity Group senior executives.
Also in court were lawyers for Macau operators Wynn Macau Ltd, MGM China Holdings Ltd, SJM Holdings Ltd, Sands China Ltd, and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. Those firms are separately claiming civil damages for losses allegedly arising from under-the-table betting linked to Suncity Group.
The trial continues.
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