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Detained Crown staff to soon face Chinese courts

Fri, May 5, 7:51am by Staff Writer

The case against 18 Crown Resorts staff arrested in China last October finally looks to be progressing, with confirmation that their fate now rests with a local prosecutor.

So secretive is the Chinese justice system that little has been heard about the group, who were detained as part of a Chinese government crackdown on overseas casinos marketing their services to Chinese nationals, since the much publicised arrests, which racked the international gambling industry.

It was known that three Australians, including Crown’s international head of VIP gambling Jason O’Connor, were among those detained, but the exact nature of the charges they face is not yet known.

They are believed to be detained in Shanghai, but it has now emerged that at least three of those arrested were subsequently bailed.

And it now appears that they will face their day in court sooner rather than later, with their case now in the hands of a local prosecutor.

In the slow burning world of Chinese law and order, that is usually the final step before a court appearance.

What it also means is that there is a possibility that despite the publicity around the case, the charges might not be as serious as first feared.

With the Chinese justice system having around a 99 per cent conviction rate, there were concerns that the group could face serious long-term jail time.

But the likelihood is that they will be charged with promotion of gambling, which while the Chinese government is cracking down on the practice, is a much better outcome than charges related to money laundering, which could have been the possible outcome.

The arrests were reportedly the culmination of a long-term investigation into Crown’s practices on the Chinese mainland.

Crown had been active recruiting Chinese VIPs to its resorts in Melbourne and Perth as well as overseas, but that has completely ceased since the arrests.

The fallout from the arrests, saw major changes at both board and executive level for the ASX-Listed company, and a change in strategy with Crown selling down its interests in international casino joint venture Melco Crown, which operates casinos in Macau and Manila.

The end of its marketing activities in China has also raised questions about the viability of Crown Resorts Sydney casino at Barangaroo, which has just begun construction. The company has said it is confident that the Sydney casino will be fully viable despite a subsequent slump in the VIP market from China.

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