Posted on: June 21, 2022, 06:55h. 

Last updated on: June 21, 2022, 10:57h.

Former junket executive Alvin Chau, 48, will make his defense against numerous criminal charges in September. The Macau native helped transform the Portuguese colony into the world’s richest gaming hub after the enclave was returned to Chinese control around the turn of the century.

Macau Alvin Chau Suncity junket group VIP
Former Macau junket executive Alvin Chau in 2018. Chau is facing a lengthy prison sentence after law enforcement in Macau and China accused him of facilitating illegal cross-border gambling trips for mainlanders. (Image: AFP)

Chau, the Suncity Group founder, former chairman, and CEO, was detained and later arrested in Macau last November. Law enforcement charged him with various crimes related to running an illicit cross-border gambling operation.

Chau has been held at the Coloane Prison since his November arrest. He’s scheduled to make his first court appearance in relation to the charges on September 2.

Chau is one of 21 suspects who have been charged with crimes by the Macau Public Prosecution’s Office for running the Suncity scheme. Like most other junket groups, Suncity organized first-class travel for mainland Chinese millionaires and billionaires to Macau. Once in town, the VIP players were typically lent lines of gaming credit that closely mirrored the overall cost of their luxury travel and five-star accommodations.

Chau’s detention led to the shuttering of the junket industry in Macau. One shop after another closed after Chau, arguably the biggest name in the junket business and certainly the face of the multibillion-dollar industry, was taken into custody.

Indictment Details Emerge

TDM Radio Macau obtained the Macau Public Prosecutor’s indictment against Chau and the others.

The criminal charges suggest that the Suncity syndicate organized the unlawful gambling of at least HK$800 billion (US$101.9 billion). Suncity was founded in 2017.

Prior to Chau’s arrest and the cessation of junket groups as they had been known for some 15 years, casinos partnered with the travel organizers. The VIP planners kept high roller rooms occupied in Macau and on its Cotai Strip, and in exchange, the casinos paid commission to the junket firms.

China prohibits nearly all forms of gambling on the mainland, the exception being its government-run lotteries. Marketing gambling trips on the mainland is also illegal in the People’s Republic.

Macau adheres to China’s “one country, two systems” policy principle that governs its two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) — Macau and Hong Kong. China has been on a crusade to limit the outward flow of money to foreign places. Macau, being a good steward of the “one country, two systems” policy, subsequently adhered to President Xi Jinping’s orders that capital outflow be better monitored and scrutinized.

Xi has said in the past that money leaving China poses a considerable risk to the country’s national security.

Steep Penalties

Chau stepped down from Suncity in the days following his arrest. He has also since sold off his entire stake in Suncity Group to allow the company to continue with its investments in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Russia without his name overshadowing its business operations.

Chau is believed to be a billionaire, though his fortune is difficult for independent financial outlets to measure. He will likely need to spend heavily on his legal defense if he is to avoid considerable time behind bars.

Chau has been charged with founding and leading a criminal group. China’s sentencing laws for someone deemed guilty of such offenses mandate that a minimum sentence of eight years in prison be imposed.