Beijing has targeted Macau’s casino industry because it’s been reported to be a hotbed for corruption, money laundering and racketeering. More than 50% of Macau’s casino revenue comes from VIP and high stake gamblers who spend lavish sums of money at the casino tables. One of these VIP gamblers was Li Huabo who is reported to have transferred as much as $3 billion Hong Kong dollars (HKD) into Macau to gamble at the casinos according to mainland Chinese news outlets.
Records show that Li Huabo transferred around $3 billion HKG into his Macau accounts between April 2008 and Jan 2011. He is reported to have lost around $34 million HKD during the same period at the casino tables. Li accumulated most of his wealth illegally by using his position as Poyang County’s finance bureau section director in Jiangxi Province and manipulating the accounts.
He is reported to have committed fraud and stolen around $124 million HKD in public funds before taking his family and running away to Singapore. His actions put him on the Chinese authorities most wanted list and he became the second most sought after fugitive in China after Yang Xiuzhu who is suspected to have moved to the United States back in 2003 after she was accused of corruption and pilfering $312.4 million HKD.
Authorities from Mainland China have been working closely with Macau to track Li’s financial trail and collect as much proof as they can. Before fleeing to Singapore, Li apparently felt remorse at his actions and left a note to his leader saying “I promise to pay back the money one day if I can”. Beijing worked closely with Singapore and Interpol and managed to arrest Li towards the end of 2013.
According to sources quoting government officials, Li has admitted to stealing huge amounts of money from construction funds after using a false seal to approve and authorize each transaction. After accumulating large sums of money, he then transferred it to an account in Macau and later used those funds to gamble in Macau and indulge himself. Li’s wife Xu Aihong requested him to come back to the Mainland for the sake of his family.
Li agreed to her request and was brought back to China on the 9th of May where he will be tried and sentenced. Beijing has promised to continue its anti-corruption crackdown on corrupt officials in Macau and has asked for Macau to extend full co-operation as it looks to bring more fugitives to justice.