The 18 employees of Crown Resorts Limited arrested in China last month have now been officially charged with “gambling crimes” and most of the group is now facing up to six months in custody before their cases are heard in court.

According to a report from The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, those being charged following the October 13 and 14 arrests include three Australian citizens in Jason O’Connor, Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan alongside Malaysian Alfread Gomez and 14 Chinese nationals.

The newspaper reported that a fourth Australian national detained in connection with the matter but not a direct employee of Crown Resorts Limited has also been charged while Shanghai-based administrative assistant Jiang Ling, a Chinese citizen, is so far the only one of the group to have been granted bail.

The Sydney Morning Herald explained that the charges were filed within the 37-day time limit set by Chinese law with police now set to carry out further investigations before bringing more formal indictments and handing the cases over to court prosecutors.

The employees of the Melbourne-based firm were arrested by police in Shanghai as part of an operation dubbed “Duanlian”, which in Chinese translates as “to break the chain”. It is illegal to promote or organize gambling activities in mainland China and the government has long been attempting 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 Jinping, 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.

The Sydney Morning Herald 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.”

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