The verdict – and eventual sentencing – in the case involving Alvin Chau Cheok Wa (pictured in a file photo) and other defendants linked to the now-defunct Macau casino junket Suncity Group Ltd will be announced on January 18, said on Thursday the presiding judge, Lou Ieng Ha, according to media reports.
Thursday was the third and final day of closing arguments in the criminal case, being heard at the city’s Court of First Instance.
Macau’s Public Prosecutions Office had indicted Mr Chau, the founder of Suncity Group, and 20 other people for illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering.
The defendants are accused of running a criminal syndicate that allegedly cheated the Macau government out of about HKD8.26 billion (US$1.05 billion) in tax revenue from 2013 to 2021, according to a copy of the original indictment reviewed by GGRAsia.
The indictment said the group led by Mr Chau ran for years a form of illegal, under-the-table betting for high rollers in Macau, referred to by some commentators and government officials as the “multiplier”.
With the multiplier, the bet denominated at the casino gaming table actually represents a bet made privately that can be a multiple many times the ‘official’ one, thus avoiding paying on some bets Macau’s effective 39-percent tax rate on casino gross gaming revenue.
During the trial, Mr Chau denied any wrongdoing. His defence noted that 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.
A number of the city’s casino operators are also complainants in the case, claiming millions of U.S. dollars from Suncity Group. These include Wynn Macau Ltd, MGM China Holdings Ltd, SJM Holdings Ltd, Sands China Ltd, and Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. These firms are separately claiming civil damages for losses allegedly arising from under-the-table betting linked to Suncity Group.
The downfall of Mr Chau and the Suncity Group began in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, mainland China, when the People’s Procuratorate of that city announced in November 2021 it had “approved the arrest for suspect” Mr Chau, for having “seriously hampered the social order of our country,” via “cross-border” gambling operations involving Chinese customers, and concerning “huge” amounts of capital.
Shortly after, Mr Chau was detained in Macau on suspicion of facilitating illegal gambling overseas for Chinese customers. All of the junket brand’s VIP rooms in Macau were closed on December 1, 2021.
Mr Chau has been in pre-trial detention in Macau since his arrest in November last year.
An intermediate court in Wenzhou finished in mid-August hearing three cases on illegal gambling alleged to have involved Mr Chau. All 35 defendants in the Wenzhou court proceedings were sentenced to jail in September. The range of the sentences applied was from 15 months, to seven years and six months. Fines imposed ranged from CNY50,000 (US$7,097) to CNY3.0 million.
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Aggregate number of visitors to Macau during the first six days of the Chinese New Year holiday break