Thu, Oct 27, 2:03pm by Staff Writer
Just days after 18 Crown Resorts staff were taken into custody on the mainland, Chinese authorities have detained two junket agents, apparently with strong links to Australian casinos, as they attempted to flee across the Hong Kong border.
The latest arrests, combined with the detention of Crown’s staff, including three Australian executives, suggests a broadening of the Chinese government crackdown and comes after an explicit warning from Chinese officials in Macau just three months ago.
Beijing’s representative in the former Portuguese Colony, the China Liaison Office told a meeting with the Macau Gaming Information Association (MGIA) that it was concerned that large gamblers were being allowed to bet on credit and about illegal money flowing through the gambling Mecca.
“For more than a year the industry has been warned to pay attention to China’s anti-corruption campaign,” said Tony Tong, founder of Hong Kong-based risk management firm Pacific Financial Services and vice chairman of MGIA.
The role of a junket agent is to find and bring Chinese high-rollers to casinos. It is alleged they may lend them money to gamble. It provides the strongest indication yet that authorities are not just targeting the marketing activities of companies like Crown on the mainland but also investigating money flows to casinos in Australia.
“The illegal movement of funds has come up repeatedly in discussion with the lawyers,” one family member of the detained Crown staff told the Australian Financial Review. Under China’s strict capital controls, individuals can only move $US50,000 out of the country each year.
The Australian newspaper is reporting that it is not just the 18 Crown staff who are currently being detained and there are up to ten junket organisers connected to the case who have been detained across China and a total of 87 people have been questioned by police during the investigation.
“The government is sending a clear and loud message to the gaming industry about the prohibition of marketing activities in China,” said Mr Tong.
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