Australians nabbed in gambling raid
Crackdown targeted those who try to lure ‘high rollers’ to overseas casinos
China confirmed onMonday that some Australian nationals were detained in Shanghai for suspected gambling crimes, adding that “the case is still under investigation”.
“The police have, in accordance with laws and bilateral agreements, notified the Australian consulate general in Shanghai of the detention,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference in Beijing.
Australian casino giant Crown Resorts said on Monday that China had detained 18 of its employees, including three Australians.
Hua, without confirming the number of Australians detained, said the Chinese side will guarantee the legal rights and interests of concerned parties, and consular officials could visit and offer necessary assistance.
Fairfax Media reported over the weekend that police took the three Australians, who were visiting China on business, and local Chinese
spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry employees based in several Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, from their homes late on Thursday and detained them.
Casino gambling is illegal on the Chinese mainland and Chinese law prohibits agents from organizing groups of more than 10 Chinese citizens to gamble abroad. The crime is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment.
The company’s executive general manager in charge of international VIP services, Jason O’Connor, is believed to be among those detained, the company said in a statement.
O’Connor heads up a program designed to lure “high rollers” to Crown Casino in Melbourne, according to the SydneyMorning Herald.
Las Vegas casino giant MGM shut its marketing office on the Chinese mainland years ago after a similar brush with police.
Crown has benefitted from an upsurge in Chinese tourists at its Australian casinos. The company’s 2016 annual report showed that more than one-third of revenue generated by its Australian resorts in the past financial year was from international visitors, mainly from the Chinese mainland, The Wall Street Journal said.
In February last year, the Ministry of Public Security started to crackdownongambling nationwide, including on groups that organize trips for Chinese nationals to visit casinos overseas.
Last year, police arrested 13 South Korean casino managers and 34 Chinese agents for selling packages with free tours, free accommodation and sexual services.
The police have ... notified the Australian consulate general in Shanghai of the detention.”
Agencies contributed to this story.