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Macao jails Suncity founder 18 years over illegal gambling

FILE - Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau attends an event in Macao on Nov. 29, 2020. The founder of Macao's once biggest casino junket organizer will face 18 years in jail after being convicted of a series of charges, including operating illegal gaming activities, running a criminal organization and fraud on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. (AP Photo, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MACAO (AP) — The founder of Macao’s once-biggest casino junket organizer was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in jail after being convicted of operating illegal gaming activities, running a criminal organization and numerous other charges.

Alvin Chau, former chairman of Suncity Group, was arrested in Macao in November 2021 shortly after Chinese authorities issued an arrest warrant for him based on accusations that he ran an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate with others.

Macao is the only place in China where casinos are legal, and junket operators such as Suncity were a key part of its gaming industry. They helped facilitate gambling for high rollers outside the former Portuguese colony, including arranging travel services and extending credit for them.

Macao prosecutors accused Chau and some co-defendants of running a syndicate that caused a loss of about $1 billion in tax revenue to the city’s government between 2013 and 2021. They were alleged to have made illegitimate profits through operating side-betting activities. Chau faced nearly 290 charges in one of the gambling hub’s biggest criminal cases in years.


In handing down the verdict, the judge noted that Chau's defense lawyer tried to prove Chau had not participated in the side-betting activities but she concluded such operations would not have been possible without Chau’s approval.

But she acquitted Chau of money laundering.

The court ordered Chau and some co-defendants to pay the government $830 million and financially compensate various casino operators.

The junket sector slumped after Chau’s arrest, with Suncity shutting its VIP rooms. In January last year, Macao police also arrested Levo Chan, a former boss of another leading junket business, for allegedly running illegal gambling operations.

The casino hub is ramping up for a tourism and casino recovery after China eases its COVID-19 restrictions in recent weeks. In 2022, its gambling revenues were halved to $5.3 billion from a year earlier.