Trading in SunCity shares halted following chairman’s arrest

| By Robin Harrison
Alvin Chau, the chairman and majority shareholder of junket operator SunCity Group, has been arrested in Macau under suspicion of running an illegal gambling business.
Macau

The Macau government issued a release Saturday (27 November) confirming an individual named Chau had been asked to assist a police investigation, in the wake of an arrest warrant being issued by the Wenzhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate in Zhejiang Province. 

The mainland authorities allege Chau set up a cross-border gambling syndicate, illegally arranging for Chinese residents to travel overseas on VIP gambling junkets. These operations, the Macau government said, involved a “huge” amount of capital.

Chau was advised by the Wenzhou Procuratorate that if he surrendered, he may be treated leniently. 

In the wake of the police action, trading of shares in two companies controlled by Chau, SunCity Group and its subsidiary Summit Ascent Holdings, have been suspended on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. 

Effective 29 November, this is “pending the release of an announcement in relation to news coverage” regarding the executive, according to a filing with the exchange. Having started as a junket operator, Chau has expanded into multiple businesses, including resort development. 

A separate release from the Macau Judiciary Police on 27 November, which did not name Chau, said 11 people had been arrested as part of an investigation that dates back to August 2019. 

It involves a criminal syndicate that allegedly exploited a VIP junket business in Macau casinos to recruit mainland Chinese residents to gamble illegally online, via offshore platforms. 

The proceeds were then laundered through the junket accounts, using illegal banks. 

This led to the 11 being arrested on 27 November, with computers, internet servers and electronic storage devices seized as part of the operation, as well as more than HK$3m (£288,219/€340,678/$384,624) in cash. 

“Upon investigation, the arrestees confessed to the syndicate’s operation of gambling websites or telephone betting activities overseas, but refused to cooperate in other investigations,” the Judiciary Police said. 

The 11 have now been transferred to the Public Prosecutions Office to face charges of being involved in a criminal syndicate, illegal gambling and money laundering while follow-up investigations are ongoing. 

The investigation takes place amid a consultation on the future of Macau’s regulatory model, with the Special Administrative Region’s government looking to make a series of changes to the existing framework.

These include tighter regulations on junkets, at a time when Beijing is looking to limit the amount of money mainland China residents can gamble overseas.

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