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Macao detains Suncity boss on China gambling charge

November 27, 2021 GMT
The website for Suncity Group is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Chinese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the head of Suncity Group, Macao's biggest junket organizer over accusations that he helped run an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The website for Suncity Group is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Chinese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the head of Suncity Group, Macao's biggest junket organizer over accusations that he helped run an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The website for Suncity Group is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Chinese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the head of Suncity Group, Macao's biggest junket organizer over accusations that he helped run an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The website for Suncity Group is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Chinese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the head of Suncity Group, Macao's biggest junket organizer over accusations that he helped run an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
The website for Suncity Group is seen on a computer screen in Beijing, China, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Chinese authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the head of Suncity Group, Macao's biggest junket organizer over accusations that he helped run an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Macao police on Saturday detained the head of Macao’s biggest casino junket organizer and others after Chinese authorities issued an arrest warrant for them over accusations that they ran an illegal cross-border gambling syndicate.

The arrests in the gambling enclave came after prosecutors in Wenzhou, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, on Friday accused Suncity Group CEO Alvin Chau and another person, Zhang Ningning, of leading cross-border gambling operations and setting up casinos across China.

Casinos and most forms of gambling are illegal in mainland China, and semi-autonomous Macao is the only Chinese city allowed to operate a casino. Mainland visitors are able to travel to Macao to gamble but are required to obtain a visa.

“Based on evidence obtained from previous criminal investigations, the (Macao) police brought the criminal suspect Chau and other persons involved back to the police station for investigation in accordance with the law this morning,” Macao’s government said in a statement on Saturday.

Authorities said they had been investigating the case since July last year. They said that the gambling syndicate has 199 shareholder representatives, over 12,000 agents that promoted its gambling operations and more than 80,000 gamblers in its network.

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The syndicate also set up asset management firms to assist gamblers with cross-border fund transfers and to recover debts they owed, authorities said,

In 2019, China’s official Xinhua news agency accused Suncity of targeting mainland gamblers with online gambling and proxy-betting operations based in Cambodia and the Philippines. Suncity denied the allegations.

Authorities said the syndicate “severely damaged the social order of the country” and on Friday urged Chau to turn himself in in exchange for a more lenient punishment.

Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group could not be reached for comment by phone and did not immediately reply to email inquiries.