Junket Tycoon Levo Chan, Defendants Ordered to Pay HK$780mil to Gov’t, Gaming Concessionaires

April 23, 2023 | Government

MACAU, SAR (April 21, 2023) — Junket tycoon Levo Chan Weng Lin and four other defendants have been ordered by a court ruling to pay a total of HK$779.7 million as compensation to the government and gaming concessionaires, according to a court ruling that sentenced the former Tak Chun boss to 14 years in jail,  the ‘Macau News Agency’ reported Friday.

The MNA reported the decision The Macau Court of First Instance handed down the verdict following a five-month trial of Mr Chan and eight other defendants linked to the now-defunct junket operator, Tak Chun Group.

According to a 259-page verdict published later on Friday, Mr Chan and four other defendants were ordered to pay a total of HK$779.7 million, including HK$575.2 million for the Macau government; HK$3.83 million for MGM Macau; HK$36.84 million for Wynn Macau; nearly HK$47 million for Sands China; HK$81.1 million for Galaxy Entertainment; and HK$35.65 million for SJM. Melco Resorts is not a complainant in the case and is not entitled to any compensation.

Macau public prosecutors accused Mr Chan, the former Tak Chun boss, of 83 charges in total. However, Lam Peng Fai, the presiding judge of the trial, reduced the number of counts to 34 on Friday due to legal technicalities. Mr Chan was found guilty of all charges, including organised crime, illicit gaming activities, fraud, and money laundering, marking the downfall of another major junket kingpin amid the restructuring of the local industry.

Among the charges, Macau public prosecutors accused Mr Chan of founding a criminal syndicate that had facilitated under-the-table bets in Macau casinos, defrauding the Macau government of HK$575.2 million (US$73.3 million) in gaming tax and at least HK$135 million in revenue for the city’s gaming operators between 2014 and 2020.

On Friday, Lam Peng Fai ruled that Mr Chan and four other defendants had to pay compensation to the Macau government and five Macau gaming operators. Apart from Mr Chan, four other defendants in this case — senior executives and employees of Tak Chun — have been convicted of all charges, including illicit gambling activities like under-the-table betting, fraud, money laundering and involvement in a criminal group. The sentencing for Cherie Wong Pui Keng, Betty Cheong Sao Pek, Wayne Lio Weng Hang and Lee Tat Chuen ranged from an imprisonment term of seven years to eleven years.

Four out of the nine defendants, Chan Kam Chi, Choi Wai Chan, Li Manxing, and Tan Guichang, were acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence. Chan Kam Chi was a former Tak Chun employee, Mr Choi was the boss of a travel firm that was linked to Tak Chun, and the last two were involved in usury for gambling.

A 20-day period has been given to all defendants to appeal to the Court of Second Instance. Mr Levo Chan, who has been detained since January last year and the only defendant showing up in the court proceedings, remains in custody pending confirmation of the sentence.

Leong Hon Man, a lawyer for the Tak Chun boss, declined to comment immediately on whether his client would appeal. “We still need to examine the judgment carefully and communicate with the client later,” he told local media outlets outside the court building.

The guilty verdict of Mr Levo Chan follows the sentencing of another major junket magnate, Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, the former boss of Suncity Group, to 18 years in prison in January for similar charges. Both the prosecution and Mr Chau have appealed the verdict.

Long-run, stable manner

In the judgment that is mostly in favour of public prosecutors, Judge Lam ruled on Friday that Mr Chan found and led a criminal syndicate that was assisted by other defendants. “The syndicate made use of Tak Chun Group and Tak Chun-branded VIP rooms [in local casinos] to carry out illegal gambling activities for illicit gains in a long-run, organised, and stable manner,” the presiding judge said.

The court also found that testimonies from witnesses and evidence presented in the case — including wiretapped phone calls of Mr Chan, records and files seized from Tak Chun’s servers, computers and mobiles of the defendants — supported a conclusion that Mr Chan’s syndicate carried out under-the-table bets in 24 licensed venues in local casinos between 2014 and 2020.

Under-the-table betting, also known as multiplier betting, refers to a practice where bets formally denominated at a casino gambling table only represent a fraction of the amount of a private bet made between gamblers and junkets to avoid gaming revenue levies.

A key piece of evidence, a computer file recording all the gambling activities of Tak Chun between 2014 and 2018, was discovered by the Mainland Chinese police and passed on to the Macau counterpart. Judge Lam said on Friday there “is no reason” to believe the file, which showed 3,409 under-the-table bets happened in Tak Chun VIP rooms in Macau over the same time period, was obtained in an illegal way despite the challenges from the defence in the past few months.

Concerning under-the-table betting activities and substantial fraud, the judge also said: “The syndicate defrauded the [Macau] gaming concessionaires, which did not know the real wager amounts of the gamblers, and [the syndicate] also carried out under-the-table betting activities covertly to avoid the supervision from the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau… These led to the loss of the Macau government and the gaming concessionaires.”

The local court also found the syndicate used higher commissions to attract gamblers to engage in under-the-table bets, resulting in illicit gains of over HK$1.5 billion for the criminal gang between 2014 and 2020.

In regards to telephone and online betting, the local court said the syndicate helped facilitate such activities in the Philippines with the resources of Tak Chun in Macau without getting approval from the Macau authorities. The syndicate profiteered over HK$200 million from these betting activities, Judge Lam added.

Concerning the charge of money laundering, the court ruled that the illicit gains of the syndicate had been “disguised” and mixed with the daily capital transfers of Tak Chun, and it is believed that some of the proceeds had ended up in the personal bank account of Mr Chan.

Mr Chan has been found guilty of all 34 charges: one count of organised crime; 24 counts of illegal gambling in local licensed gaming venues (under-the-table betting); seven counts of substantial fraud; one count of illegal gambling (telephone and online betting) and one count of money laundering.

SOURCE: Macau News Agency (MNA).

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