Alvin Chau’s 18-Year Prison Sentence Could Be Lengthened in Macau

Posted on: February 10, 2023, 01:23h. 

Last updated on: February 10, 2023, 04:25h.

Alvin Chau’s 18-year prison sentence is being appealed by both the prosecution and his legal defense.

Alvin Chau Macau casino VIP junket group
Former Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau pictured in a 2020 file photograph. Chau was sentenced to 18 years in prison in January 2023. But the disgraced Macau junket kingpin is appealing in hopes of a lesser sentence. (Image: AP)

Earlier this week, attorneys representing the disgraced 48-year-old junket kingpin petitioned Macau’s Court of Second Instance to reduce their client’s prison sentence. He was found guilty in January of fraud and facilitating illegal gambling. The Court of the Second Instance is an appellate court in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.

Macau’s Office of the Prosecutor General is also unhappy with the sentence.

The prosecutor’s office also petitioned the Second Instance Court to reconsider the penalty. But instead of shortening the punishment, the local government is asking for a lengthier prison term. The prosecution has asked the court to extend Chau’s prison time by 3.5 years for a total sentence of 21.5 years.

Appeal Odds Long

Chau was the founder and leader of Suncity Group, a prominent junket group in Macau that regularly kept the region’s high-roller rooms occupied. Suncity’s partner casinos provide the VIP travel organizer with gaming commissions for bringing the mainland’s wealthiest gamblers to the resorts.

China, seeking to limit the capital outflow from the mainland, advised Macau in recent years to better monitor its junket groups for potentially illicit activity. Prosecutors successfully made the case that Chau’s Suncity routinely violated gaming laws in Macau and marketing rules on the mainland to attract such coveted high rollers.

Macau’s appellate courts rarely reduce prison sentences ordered by lower courts. And with Chau’s criminal charges proven in court, and those acts including 136 instances of fraud and a single count of running a gang, it would appear unlikely that the Second Instance Court will adjust the sentence.

If the court refuses to amend the punishment one way or another, the prosecution and defense would have one final appeal opportunity with the Macau Court of Final Appeal.

Remaining Junkets Seek Leniency

Chau’s downfall led to the exit of most other rival junket operators. Those travel organizers have departed Macau for more favorable operating jurisdictions in Southeast Asia — notably in the Philippines and Vietnam.

Macau’s gaming regulator says 36 junket groups remain licensed, about 200 less than just a few years ago. Macau would presumably be fine with zero junket groups, and to further complicate their business, the enclave imposed a 5% tax on their commissions beginning in January 2023.

The remaining junkets say the tariff cuts into their small-margin business and nearly renders the enterprises unprofitable. The Macau Gaming Promoter Professionals Association, the trade group representing the junkets, asked the government this week to consider waiving the levy.

The group has petitioned Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng to reconsider the junket tax.

“The Macau chief executive has the power to waive part of the levy on commissions paid to junkets. What we are urging the government to do is just that,” veteran junket organizer U Io Hung told GGRAsia this week.

Ho has shown no intent or interest in reducing the junket tax.

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