Macau’s infamous “Junket King” Alvin Chau has been sentenced to 18 years in jail after being found guilty of 162 charges including fraud, criminal association and illegal gambling.
The 48-year-old former SunCity Group CEO heard his sentence handed down in Macau’s Court of First Instance after a 4-month trial involving 21 defendants, with 13 of them, including Chau, found guilty.
Chau had pleaded not guilty to all 286 charges levelled against him after his arrest in December 2021, a Chinese government-led crackdown on illegal gambling targeting illegal cross-border gambling and money laundering.
However, although the court in Macau found Chau not guilty of the serious money laundering charges, he was convicted of illegal gambling, fraud and involvement in a criminal organisation.
Pedro Leal, a member of Chau’s legal team, said after the sentencing that he was disappointed in the outcome and that Chau was likely to appeal his sentence.
“The two areas where I think there was a lack of evidence is on the fraud and illegal gambling,” Leal stated outside the courthouse in Macau, adding: “VIP gambling will never be the same.”
Chau is the highest profile target of the recent crackdown ordered by Beijing. Macau, being a special administrative region of China, has come under the gaze of the Chinese authorities who are enforcing President Xi Jinping’s anti-gambling policy.
The junket operators, once numbering in the hundreds and now down to just a few dozen, arrange gambling trips for VIP clients from mainland China.
Chau was top of the junket tree in Macau as CEO of the SunCity Group, the biggest operator in the former Portuguese colony. His arrest, trial, and now conviction has sent shockwaves through the gambling Mecca, which is already reeling from pandemic-fired losses.
Another junket mogul in the spotlight and facing similar consequences to Chau – Levo Chan Weng Lin – was arrested in February of last year by Macau’s Judiciary Police (PJ).
Chan, the CEO of Macau Legend Development, was charged with “criminal organization, illegal gambling including online gambling and ‘betting under the table’”.
Ben Lee, an Asian gaming expert and managing partner at IGamiX Management and Consulting, told news outlets: “The prosecution of Macau’s largest two junkets, who prior to Covid were estimated to command 70 per cent of the VIP market and 25 percent of overall gross gaming revenue, sends a chilling reminder to the gaming industry that no one is above reproach.”
Lee added: “The trial means the end of the high volume and high-profile Macau junkets and VIP rooms. Macau will, out of necessity, need to find and grow the grind mass market, a Herculean task.”