A little over eight months after being arrested in China for “gambling crimes” and the 19 detained employees of Crown Resorts Limited have today reportedly pleaded guilty and been sentenced following a trial that lasted only a few hours.
According to a report from The Guardian newspaper with additional support from the Australian Associated Press, the 17 current and two former employees of the Melbourne-based casino operator were convicted at Shanghai’s Baoshan District People’s Court on Monday morning under articles 25 and 303 of Chinese criminal law, which relate to the organizing of gambling parties and relying on such activities as a main source of income.
The newspaper reported that the convicted included Jason O’Connor, VIP International Executive General Manager for Crown Resorts Limited, who was sentenced to ten months in jail, while fellow Australian compatriots Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan were each ordered to serve nine months with all three penalties to reflect time already served. The remaining 16 were reportedly instructed to pay fines totaling just over $1.26 million, which the casino giant explained that it would pay.
“Crown [Resorts Limited] remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China and does not intend to comment further at this time,” read a statement from the Australian firm, which operates casinos in Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney and last month offloaded its remaining stake in the Melco Resorts and Entertainment Limited joint venture it had run with Hong Kong-based Melco International Development Limited.
The Crown Resorts Limited employees were detained by police in and around Shanghai on October 13 as part of a government policy dubbed “Duanlian”, which in Chinese translates as “to break the chain” and has involved officials attempting to terminate the personal and financial links between foreign casino operators and their mainland clients. The newspaper reported that casino gambling, as well as the promotion of such activities, is prohibited in China with the former Portuguese enclave of Macau the only place where Chinese nationals may legally place wagers. The organizing of foreign gambling trips is additionally unlawful although casino firms often get around this rule by incorporating sight-seeing excursions. The anti-casino strategy has been led by President Xi Jinping as officials perceive the activity as being linked to corruption, money laundering and domestic instability particularly as many of the gamblers that have gone broke have been small business owners.