Macau junket operator accused of laundering HK$1.8 billion

A storied Macau junket operator, who has been the focus of a lengthy police investigation, has been accused of laundering HK$1.8 billion ($232 million) through bank accounts in Hong Kong, according to court documents, Reuters reported.

Cheung Chi-tai, a former major shareholder of one of Macau’s biggest junket operators the Neptune Group, is facing three separate charges of money laundering  after he was arrested at Wan Chai police station in Hong Kong.

In November last year, the Hong Kong police launched a money-laundering investigation related to Cheung and had frozen his assets.

Macau’s junket operators and high roller VIP industry has come under increased scrutiny from authorities due to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s campaign to crack down on corruption and illicit transactions.

Cheung, who lives in one of Hong Kong’s most affluent neighborhoods, has been charged with dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense, according to a charge sheet seen by Reuters.

Bank of China and Chong Hing Bank are shown as the banks involved in the transactions. Both banks could not be immediately reached for comment.

A Neptune spokesman said Cheung was not a shareholder and had no link to the company.

Cheung was also named in another money laundering trial of former Birmingham City owner Carson Yeung last year. Cheung was not present at that trial.

The trial of the flamboyant Hong Kong businessman Yeung cast a rare spotlight on some of the murky channels and methods used by underground banks and money launderers in moving illicit capital between China, Hong Kong and the gambling hub of Macau.

Cheung was identified in a 1992 US Senate committee investigation as a top lieutenant of the Wo Hop To triad group.

A Reuters’ 2010 special report also found links between Cheung and organized criminal gangs, or triads, and a casino run by gambling goliath Las Vegas Sands in Macau.

While Cheung hasn’t been convicted of any triad-related crimes, his organized crime affiliation was corroborated by US authorities and former and current police officials.

 

Cheung’s case has been adjourned to September 24. He was released on bail for HK$200,000.