Macau Casino Mogul Alvin Chau Loses Final Appeal, Faces 18-Year Sentence

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In the latest turn of events, Macau’s apex court has once again slammed the gavel against the fallen gambling emperor Alvin Chau. The court denied his appeal to mitigate his 18-year incarceration for criminal association and illegal gambling. This marks the grim finis of Chau’s legal skirmishes, punctuating his repeated, desperately optimistic appeals since his sentencing in January 2023.

Alvin Chau had earned quite a name for himself in the glitzy and flamboyant world of casinos as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Suncity, the largest and now unfortunately defunct junket operator in Macau. Once a pillar of Macau’s illustrious gambling world, Chau’s catastrophic downfall from being one of the wealthiest and most influential individuals is just as headline-worthy as his ascent to power was.

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At its peak in 2014 – Macau’s golden period – Suncity was instrumental in procuring an astonishing 25% of the VIP market revenue. To comprehend the mammoth extent of this contribution, let’s crunch some numbers. Suncity single-handedly raked in roughly US$11 billion, outpacing the entire gaming revenue generated by the American state of Nevada, which capped around US$10.6 billion at the time.

Suncity, under Chau’s leadership, evolved into a multibillion-dollar empire with its fingers in a plethora of pies including casinos, property, and entertainment. Their central operation involved flying in Chinese high-rollers to the luxurious casinos in Macau and loaning them funds for gambling. This crafty move factored around the restrictions on the outflow of hard cash from mainland China, ensuring Suncity’s neck wasn’t under the legal guillotine.

Riding the wave of such unprecedented success, Chau led an exorbitantly extravagant lifestyle, akin to a modern-day playboy. But there was no smoke without fire. Persisted rumors hinted at a triad past and signals that China’s central authority had had enough of the shenanigans of Suncity, and Macau’s junket industry overall. Beijing leveled accusations of facilitating money laundering and capital flight from the mainland, directly attributing blame to these junkets.

Suncity’s extravagant activities grabbed headlines yet again in 2019, as it was accused by the Xinhua News Agency—Beijing’s official state-run media—of making billions through unauthorized online betting operations rooted in the Philippines and Cambodia, illicitly targeting mainland China.

Fate ultimately caught up with Chau in November 2021 when prosecutors in Wenzhou, eastern China, issued a warrant for his arrest. Chau was arrested by Macau’s police a few days later, facing an array of charges multitudinous in nature, including running a criminal syndicate, illicit gambling activities, fraud, and money laundering.

However, Chau’s legal troubles extended beyond these charges. Multimillion-dollar fraud allegations were leveled against Chau and other Suncity officials, accusing them of swindling the Macau government out of HK$8.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) in tax revenue. Between 2013 and 2021, Suncity had allegedly offered many of their VIP clients illegal “under-the-table” bets.

In a surprising twist in October 2023, Macau’s Court of Second Instance upheld Chau’s 18-year sentence, but invalidated his fraud conviction while maintaining the other convictions. Much to Chau’s chagrin, the court tripled the damages he and Suncity were obligated to give back to Macau’s government, resulting in an astonishing figure of US$3.2 billion.

In the final nail in the coffin this week, Macau’s Court of Final Appeal reasserted that verdict, corroding any glimmer of hope for Chau’s freedom. The once-revered and now-disgraced junket mogul’s rise and fall serves as a stark reminder that even the high and mighty must bow before the rule of law.