A mainland Chinese gambler was found dead in what was described as a guest house in downtown Macau peninsula on Friday. He is thought to have been severely beaten by suspected loan sharks over a purported gambling debt of HKD50,000 (US$6,373), according to the city’s Judiciary Police.
In February, Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, said there had been a 25.9 percent rise in 2018 in the number of gaming-related loan-sharking cases reported to the city’s authorities.
All three suspects in the latest case had been detained after one of the trio lost his nerve and tipped off the police, according to several local Chinese-language media reports citing Judiciary Police spokesman Leng Kam Lon.
According to Mr Leng, the now-deceased debtor had borrowed a total of HKD50,000 from the three suspects in a local casino on May 1. The man was later allegedly confined in a guesthouse in the Nam Van district of the city on the same day, as he had lost all the money via casino gambling in the city.
At the guest house, “his three creditors have, several times, used their belts and slippers to beat him… in order to force him to repay the [gambling] debt,” Mr Leng stated, outlining the allegations against the suspects. He said the person had been “gagged so that he could not call for help”.
Mr Leng added the suspects “did a video shooting of their beating process using their cell phones, and sent the video clip to the victim’s family hurrying them to repay the debt”.
The time and cause of death of the person still had to be verified via post mortem, Mr Leng noted to the media.
In a Monday statement, the city’s Public Prosecutions Office said the “violent behaviour” of the three suspects was believed to be linked to the death of the person when allegedly he was illegally confined in the guest house.
The Public Prosecutions Office also stated that there were “strong indications” that the three suspects had committed an aggravated offence of kidnapping, had participated in a criminal organisation and had engaged in gaming-related usury. The latter is defined broadly as a crime involving unlicensed lending of money, typically at very high rates of interest.
The aggravated offence of kidnapping – when leading to the death of a person – carried upon conviction a prison sentence of five to 15 years for a perpetrator, the prosecutions office noted in its Monday statement.
The three suspects are currently being held in preventive detention pending trial, said the Public Prosecutions Office.
According to the Judiciary Police briefing on Friday, one of the three suspects is thought to have illegally re-entered Macau in March this year, after being expelled from the city last year in connection with alleged usury.
The other two suspects were said to have told police they were working as “tip hustlers” – people that approach gamblers in Macau casinos offering advice on betting strategies or offering to take players to ‘lucky’ tables or alternative betting rooms.
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”Our own consensus is that any newcomers to this [junket] sector should be corporatised, and should be financially sound and able to commit a higher guarantee deposit”
Kwok Chi Chung
President of junket trade body, the Macau Association of Gaming and Entertainment Promoters