Macau gambling kingpin Alvin Chau jailed for 18 years

Former Suncity Chief Executive Alvin Chau
Alvin Chau

Macau gambling kingpin Alvin Chau has been sentenced to 18 years in jail for more than 100 charges including organised crime and illegal gaming.

The 48-year-old was found guilty in a case that centred on illegal bets exceeding HK$823.7bn ($105bn). Chau, a high-profile and colourful figure in the local casino industry, had denied the charges.

Chau was the chairman and founder of Suncity Group. It was Macau’s biggest operator of junkets, or organised trips for wealthy gamblers to casinos.

It arranged for high rollers from mainland China to travel to Macau and gamble in the city’s casinos, and offered loans to them. It also collected debts for casinos, and operated VIP rooms across Macau’s casinos.

The businessman, nicknamed “Junket King”, resigned in December 2021 days after his arrest.

Prosecutors had accused Chau of creating and leading a criminal syndicate that had facilitated undeclared bets. They said that as a result the government lost more than HK$8.26bn in tax income.

The court ruled in favour of the prosecutors for most of the charges, but acquitted Chau of money laundering. The high-profile case also involves 20 other defendants.

The gambling industry has been hit hard by coronavirus restrictions as well as a crackdown by the Chinese government’s on money being moved out of the mainland.

Macau, a former Portuguese colony, is the only Chinese city where gambling is legal.

In September, a court in the eastern Chinese city of Wenzhou jailed more than 30 people for cross-border gambling in connection with Chau’s case.

Suncity shut all of its VIP rooms after Chau’s arrest. But even before that the number of junkets in Macau had been on constant decline. There are now only 36 junket operators left, down from 100 in 2019, according to official figures.

With his slicked-back hair and tanned skin, Chau is a well-known figure in the Chinese-speaking world and a favourite among tabloids which have focused on his love affairs.

Local media labelled him ‘Washing Rice Wa” after a sitcom character – though the name can also be seen as an euphemism for money laundering.

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