Macau casino junket operator accused in HK$1.8b dirty cash case

Macau junket operator, subject of long-running investigation, faces three counts of money laundering after surrendering to the police

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 2:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 June, 2015, 10:12am

Prominent Macau casino junket operator Cheung Chi-tai has been accused of laundering HK$1.8 billion through bank accounts in Hong Kong after he "surrendered'' to police in the city earlier this week.

Cheung - subject of a long-running investigation by Hong Kong police - is suspected of dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of crime under the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance.

The 54-year-old businessman walked into Wan Chai police station with his lawyer on Monday and was arrested.

His arrest comes as Macau's VIP casino junkets - businesses which bring high-rolling gamblers to the tables of the city's gaming giants - are facing an unprecedent squeeze due to a Beijing-led bid to rein in the gaming industry and a slowing mainland economy.

Detectives from the financial investigations unit of the police narcotics bureau are leading the investigation.

Cheung - described as Hong Kong permanent resident who lives in Repulse Bay - appeared in Eastern Court on Wednesday to face three separate charges of money laundering.

The first charge against Cheung alleges that between January 2, 2004, and May 4, 2010, he dealt with "property'' - HK$828,509,955.30 deposited into his Bank of China account in Hong Kong - which he knew in whole or in part directly or indirectly represented the proceeds of an indictable offence.

The second, similar, charge alleges that between January 2, 2004, and May 31, 2010, he dealt with HK$951,154,573.70 deposited into his Bank of China account in Hong Kong which he knew in whole or in part directly or indirectly represented the proceeds of an indictable offence.

The third charge alleges that Cheung dealt with HK$11,095,574.04 deposited into his Liu Chong Hing Bank - now renamed Chong Hing Bank - which he knew in whole or in part directly or indirectly represented proceeds of an indictable offence.

The case was adjourned to September 24 for mention and Cheung was released on bail of HK$200,000.

Earlier this year Hong Kong police publicly named Cheung as a respondent in a High Court hearing relating to a restraining order under the organised and serious crimes ordinance made in November last year.

Cheung did not appear for the hearing.

Hong Kong's organised and serious crimes law was enacted in 1995, and gives police greater investigative powers and the courts the ability to seize assets and double the sentences of anyone convicted under its provisions.

The law has seen billions of dollars seized and restrained since its introduction.

It also gives the police powers to compel witnesses to talk and is often used in connection with the witness protection programme.