Former Suncity supremo Alvin Chau was led into a Macau courtroom Friday. It was his first public appearance since his November 2021 arrest on charges of illegal gaming, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering.
Suncity was the biggest junket operator in Macau, with a 40% share in an industry that, at its height in 2014, drove around 60% of the gambling hub’s US$45 billion revenues.
Chau’s arrest all but torpedoed the junket industry, which had already been weakened by tightening controls on Macau’s casino industry by the Politburo in Beijing.
Twenty others are charged with Chau in Macau for their roles in Suncity operations, while another 35 Suncity agents pleaded guilty to “gambling crimes” at a court in Wenzhou on the mainland last month.
But just nine of Chau’s 20 fellow defendants, mostly senior and middle management Suncity executives, turned up to the preliminary hearing Friday. This prompted the Judge Lou Ieng Ha to adjourn the case until September 19.
Dressed to the Nines
Chau appeared dressed in “dapper-style suits,” according to Macau Business. But neither he nor his fellow defendants had the opportunity to speak.
A lawyer for one of the missing defendants, former head of Suncity’s finance operations Philip Wong Pak Ling, claimed his client was in the hospital. It was unclear when he would be discharged, the lawyer said.
Judge Lou said there were no official documents to justify Wong’s absence and ordered him to pay financial penalties, MB reported.
MB has learned that other absentees are concerned about the court setup, and have filed written objections to some of the constraints that are in place.
Because of COVID-19 measures and the large number of defendants, each of the accused is restricted to just one lawyer present in court. That’s a departure from the normal practice.
Judge Lou, who heads a three-judge trial panel, berated some of the defendants’ lawyers for their objections to the situation, accusing them of being “uncooperative.”
She rejected calls for the public gallery to be transformed into an area for additional legal representatives. She said that was because it was not in the interests of the public to have the trial behind closed doors.
Lou said the court will inform all defendants again to attend the next session.
Billion-Dollar Tax Dodge
Chau and his fellow defendants are accused of operating a criminal syndicate that cheated the Macau government out of about HKD8.26 billion (US$1.05 billion) in tax revenue from 2013 to 2021.
High rollers transported into Macau casinos by Suncity were offered private “multiplier bets,” where stakes on each official bet placed at a casino were multiplied by the junket group on the sly and settled later, tax-free.
Five of Macau’s six casino licensees are complainants in the case. The proceedings are expected to address more than 15,000 pages of documents and call 92 witnesses to testify.
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