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Detained Crown staff get Shanghai court date

Tue, Jun 13, 1:16pm by Staff Writer

The end of Crown Resorts’ Chinese nightmare is looming with the 14 staff detained by Chinese authorities set to face court later this month.

Crown Resorts released a statement on Tuesday morning confirming that it has been informed that the case against the 14 plus three others who have already been released on bail, would be heard at Baoshan District Court in Shanghai on June 26.

The 17, which include three Australians, have been charged with ‘suspected involvement in gambling’ and the court hearing is expected to last two days after which any charges would be resolved.

Chinese court hearings have a high probability of a guilty verdict, meaning it is unlikely that they will be cleared. The charges will be heard as one case.

Crown has kept silent on the fate of its employees since they were arrested in October, but would be privately hoping that if there is a guilty verdict, that the court would take into account the time already served by their staff.

That could see all of them, including the three Australians, Jason O’Connor, Pan Dan and Jerry Xuan, released after the hearing.

There is certainly more hope of that now that it has been confirmed that the case would be held at a district court not a city level court reserved for more serious cases.

The initial arrest of the 18 staff precipitated an extraordinary chain of events at Crown, which immediately withdrew its marketing operations from China and then sold out of its joint venture with Hong Kong based Melco which operated casinos in Macau and the Philippines.

Major shareholder James Packer re-joined the board overseeing a shuffle up which saw Robert Rankin step down as chairman in January and chief executive Rowen Craigie leave in late February.

The architect of Crown Resorts China strategy, Michael Chen, also departed and Packer announced the company’s focus was solely on its Australian operations, which include casinos in Melbourne and Perth, as well as the construction of Sydney’s second casino.

That strategy change may have assisted the relatively swift progress of the Chinese justice system to deal with the Crown staff.

The end of the detention of its staff in China would enable Packer and his company to move beyond a disastrous last 12 months and focus firmly on its future growth.

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