"Broken Tooth" Wan Kuok-koi walked free from jail yesterday with the swagger of the notorious gangster he once was.
He may have declared his life of crime is over, but on his release from Coloane's maximum security prison there was no disguising the fact that he still wields plenty of power.
Dozens of journalists waited from midnight to catch a glimpse of Macau's most famous convict, locked up for nearly 14 years for a string of crimes during the 1990s.
A white Lexus LS430 appeared at 6.35am, reversing into the compound where prisoners are released. Two heavily built men got out and stood at the entrance, waiting for their boss.
At 6.50am Wan, 57, emerged and headed quickly for the car. Looking fit and with his hair a youthful black, he jumped into the back. The car sped off, with the media pack in hot pursuit.
Wan was tracked down at the exclusive Pearl On The Lough residential building on the waterfront of Taipa, where he met his mother, other family and friends.
He appeared briefly only to say he was mentally well, adding it wouldn't matter what he said as he would only be misrepresented in the media anyway.
"I've no special feeling about being free," he said. "I've waited a long time for this, so I found it hard to sleep last night.
"I thought I could get out earlier this morning, but procedures delayed my release. I'm glad to be finally out of there."
His gangland brothers had reportedly prepared a 100-table feast to be held at the Sheraton Macau Hotel, Cotai Central, last night to celebrate his freedom.
Wan, seeking to dispel any fears in Macau that he might return to his old ways, said he was no longer young. "I don't want to affect the stability of Macau. There's absolutely no way I want to do that. I want to be left alone."
Security officials fear Wan may seek to return to the VIP casino junkets business and take the sheen off the city's gaming success story.
An insider said casino regulators would step up the scrutiny of licence applications for VIP junkets, the businesses that bring in high-rolling gamblers and generate the bulk of gaming income.
"It is well known that licences have been obtained with 'front' names. There will be extra vigilance," the insider said.
Authorities in Macau and on the mainland are already jittery after the arrest last month of Artur Chiang Calderon for attempted murder.
Chiang, also known as Chan Yuet-bo, is a former police officer and right-hand man of Wan's. And casino boss Ng Man-sun, once Wan's biggest rival, was also attacked in June in a Taipa hotel.
The Macau government would not comment on Wan's release. But sources said officials from the central government's Macau liaison office visited him to tell him to stay out of trouble.