Canadian arrested in Macau for US$284 million fraud attempt

Macau is the world's largest gambling hub, raking in five times as much as Las Vegas in gaming revenue.
Macau is the world's largest gambling hub, raking in five times as much as Las Vegas in gaming revenue.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Canadian man has been arrested in the gambling hub of Macau for allegedly trying to defraud an entertainment company out of US$284 million (S$383 million), police said Monday (Jan 28). 

The suspect, a 61-year-old retiree of Chinese descent, was arrested last Friday after allegedly trying to transfer the money from the firm's bank account using bogus documents. 

In an emailed statement, Macau’s Judiciary Police told AFP the man, surnamed Liao, tried to use a “fake authorisation document and transfer slip to try to defraud the entertainment company and the bank”.  Police did not identify the company or the bank involved.

The arrest comes as Beijing and Ottawa are locked in a diplomatic row following the December arrest in Canada of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a US extradition request linked to Iran sanctions violations.

In a move observers see as retaliation over the Meng case, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians soon after, accusing them of activities that "endanger China's national security".

The phrase is often used by Beijing when alleging espionage, and few details have been given about their whereabouts or the cases against them.

In contrast, the arrest in Macau was announced by local police in a press conference, and they outlined the allegations in some detail.

"(He had) hoped to apply for a transfer worth 249 million euros through the entertainment company's bank account... to the account of a company in Hong Kong," police spokesperson Leng Kam Lun told local reporters on Saturday, according to TDM.

But the bank "discovered that the signature on the transfer slip was a bit different from the one linked to the bank account", Leng said, adding that the suspect immediately left the bank after his request was denied.

The man was arrested at the border trying to leave Macau on Friday evening.

The bank contacted police after it called the company, which denied knowledge of the transfer, according to the Macao Daily, which gave the suspect's surname as Leao.

A spokesperson at Canada’s consulate in Hong Kong, which oversees Macau, said officials were aware of the arrest in the former Portuguese colony. 

“Consular officials are in contact with local authorities on the matter,” the spokesperson said, declining to comment further because of Canada’s privacy laws.

Macau is the world's largest gambling hub, raking in five times as much as Las Vegas in gaming revenue. The vast majority of gamblers who visit the semi-autonomous city are Chinese nationals.