Macau police officers detained over major probe into casino junket extortion; six later released

Gaming sources say officers from the city’s public security force among those held

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2016, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 2016, 2:45am

Macau’s security chief has expressed “deep concern” after a group of police officers were arrested for running an extortion racket linked to the controversial junket businesses which provide big-spending gamblers for the city’s casinos.

Five serving officers – four from the criminal intelligence unit of the city’s Public Security Police and one from its immigration service – were arrested along with a retired police officer on Thursday, according to officials.

The arrested officers are facing charges relating to corruption, running a criminal organisation and misconduct in public office.

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A gaming insider with knowledge of the investigation told the South China Morning Post that six more officers were picked up during Thursday’s raids, but have been released without charge pending further investigations.

A spokesman for the Judiciary Police – a separate arm of the former Portuguese enclave’s two-tiered police force – said the racket paved the way for gamblers from the mainland to enter the city illegally.

The spokesman said the racket had been operating for four years and had raked in 1.8 million patacas. However, sources told the Post that that figure could well be conservative as junket operators – who control the flow of high-rolling gamblers to the casinos – were also being milked.

The officers have been formally accused of soliciting individual payments of 70,000 patacas to “aid and abet” illegal entry of gamblers into Macau, the spokesman said.

In addition, gamblers had to pay 80,000 patacas for transport and protection in the city. On top of that, a charge of 70,000 patacas was levied to facilitate their “safe” exit from the world’s most cash-rich gaming destination.

Sources told the Post that the racket focused on one or more casino junket operators in a specific, unidentified casino.

Macau’s Secretary for Security, Wong Sio Chak, said he was deeply concerned and ordered a full investigation plus a review of internal controls and supervisory measures in the police force.

Coincidentally, the arrests came almost exactly a year after Alan Ho, a nephew of casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, was arrested for allegedly running a prostitution racket inside the landmark Hotel Lisboa. His trial commenced last week.

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They also followed the recent arrest of an immigration officer on suspicion of aiding and abetting illegal entry into Macau.

VIP junket operators – which have been criticised widely for having links to organised crime – have been the main money maker for the Macau casino industry for decades but have in recent months fallen foul of the mainland’s crackdown on corruption and its slowing economy.

The slowdown has had a dramatic effect on their business, and a number have gone under or slashed back operations as cash-flow dwindled and their ability to collect debts shrank.

They were also the subject of at least two known high-profile ‘inside job’ thefts amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars and are being targeted for greater regulation by the authorities.