The three Australian employees of Crown Resorts Limited detained by Chinese police last month before being formally arrested earlier this week have now reportedly been allowed to meet with officials from their home nation.
According to a report from the Reuters news service, the revelation came from Julie Bishop, Foreign Affairs Minister for Australia, after the trio were formally arrested for “gambling crimes” on Sunday.
As part of a Canberra press conference, Bishop confirmed that consular officials had met with Jason O’Connor, VIP International Executive General Manager for Crown Resorts Limited, as well as fellow arrested Australian nationals Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan.
“We were able to provide advice and support,” said Bishop. “We provided messages from their families. There is an anti-corruption agenda of President Xi Jinping and gambling is one of the areas of interest so we are subject to the laws of China.”
The employees of the Melbourne-based firm were detained by police in Shanghai along with 15 others for alleged gambling-related crimes on October 13 following several months of investigations as part of an operation dubbed “Duanlian”, which in Chinese translates as “to break the chain”. The Chinese government has long been trying to curtail its nationals from engaging in overseas gambling by terminating the personal and financial links between foreign casino operators and their mainland clients. Led by President Xi, officials perceive that the activity is linked to corruption, money-laundering and domestic instability particularly as many of the gamblers that have gone broke as a result of gambling have been small business owners.
“China will continue to handle this case in accordance with the law,” said Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper cited U Io Hung, the man behind Macau junket operator CCUE VIP Club, as declaring that Crown Resorts Limited had made a “big mistake” by being too high-profile and eschewing junkets, which act as middlemen that recommend high-value gamblers, in order to avoid paying commissions.
“They went over themselves to look for clients; they just wanted revenues,” said Hung. “They’ve made a big mistake. They come over with their business cards, they say “I’m Crown, I’ll use a private jet to send you over there”, it’s too obvious. We perform our business in the grey zone of the Chinese law. We will visit some potential clients [but] not directly tell them our actual job.”