Posted on: September 21, 2022, 06:47h.
Last updated on: September 21, 2022, 06:49h.
Macau junket operator Suncity Group had a computer system in place that kept records of illicit multiplier bets, the company’s former vice president of IT, Ali Celestino, testified Wednesday.
Celestino is one of 21 defendants on trial, along with former Suncity chairman and CEO Alvin Chau, at Macau’s Court of First Instance.
The defendants are charged with illegal gambling, criminal association, fraud, and money laundering for their roles at Suncity, which prosecutors have styled as a “criminal syndicate.”
Suncity was Macau’s biggest junket operator, responsible for an estimated 25% of VIP market revenue in the world’s biggest gambling hub. In 2014, Macau’s best year, that would have equated to US$11 billion.
It made Chau one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in Macau. But Suncity’s junket division was dissolved after his arrest in November last year.
Yesterday in court, Chau denied that his company had a hand in so-called “under the table” multiplier bets. Prosecutors claim that it did, and these operations cheated Macau’s government of around HKD8.26 billion (US$1.05 billion) in tax revenue from 2013 to 2021.
Billion-Dollar Tax Dodge
The multiplier bets in question refer to side bets offered by junkets to high rolling clients. The stakes on each official bet placed at a casino can be secretly multiplied by the junkets without the casino’s knowledge and settled at a later date, tax free.
Chau said Tuesday that multiplier betting was widespread in Macau’s VIP rooms, but his company had nothing to do with it. He added that his fellow defendant Cheong Chi Kin “may” have been involved in those operations, but he was not a Suncity employee.
But Celestino, who was a Suncity employee, told the court that he had been part of a team that devised the IT system to log large-scale multiplier betting, GGRAsia reports.
This replaced an existing system that predated Celestino’s tenure at the company.
Celestino also named Cheong as the individual in charge of the multiplier operations. He agreed that Cheong was “not staff” at Suncity, but described him as Chau’s “business partner,” according to GGRAsia.
Five of Macau’s six casino licensees were initially complainants in the case. They argue they were also defrauded by the practice of multiplier betting. But the court ruled last week that the cases should be separated into criminal and civil proceedings.
The criminal trial is expected to address more than 15,000 pages of documents and call 92 witnesses to testify.
In August, 35 alleged Suncity agents pleaded guilty to “gambling crimes” at a court in Wenzhou in the mainland.