China jails Crown Resorts staff over gambling case

The Crown employees were detained in raids across China last October as Beijing cracked down on high-roller gambling promotions.
The Crown employees were detained in raids across China last October as Beijing cracked down on high-roller gambling promotions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • A Chinese court yesterday convicted 19 current and former employees of Australia's Crown Resorts casino company who pleaded guilty to gambling-related charges, handing jail terms to 16 of them.

Australian Jason O'Connor, the executive vice-president of Crown division VIP International in charge of luring rich Chinese to Australia, was given a 10-month jail term and a two million yuan (S$405,500) fine.

Two other Australians, Pan Dan and Jerry Xuan, were given nine-month sentences and 400,000 yuan and 200,000 yuan fines, respectively.

Fifteen of the others charged are Chinese and one is Malaysian. Two of the 19 on trial were former staff members of Crown.

Three of them were granted bail in November and were neither fined nor jailed. The rest received jail terms of nine or 10 months.

But all sentences start from the day of their detention on Oct 14 last year. This would mean they have already served at least eight months.

Fines against the group totalled 8.62 million yuan, which Crown said it would pay.

The casino company and Australia's consul-general in Shanghai announced the verdicts after the half-day trial was held behind closed doors at Baoshan District Court yesterday. A court official confirmed the ruling to reporters.

Crown said in a statement that it was informed that the 19 were convicted of violating a law that calls for prison sentences for "anyone who organises gambling parties or is engaged in gambling as one's main business for the purpose of making profits".

"Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China and does not intend to comment further at this time," the company said.

The marketing employees were detained in raids across China last October as Beijing cracked down on high-roller gambling promotions.

Gaming is illegal in China and companies are not allowed explicitly to advertise gambling.

Since the crackdown, the company has sold out of its Macau venture and closed most of its offices across Asia.

Crown's VIP revenue plummeted 45 per cent in the six months ended Dec 31 in the wake of the detentions.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'China jails Crown Resorts staff over gambling case'. Print Edition | Subscribe