Macau police raided casinos and hotels in an operation with Chinese and Hong Kong authorities after a series of murders and attacks targeting guests in the only part of mainland China where gambling is legal.
Police questioned nearly 1,300 people and detained about 150 of them for further investigation as part of an overnight operation codenamed “Thunderbolt” between Aug. 3 and Aug. 4, according to a statement from the Unitary Police Service of Macau sent via mobile text message.
The crackdown on violent crime is an echo of Macau’s deadly gang wars in the late 1990s, when the territory was still a Portuguese colony. Criminal groups known as triads fought for control of casino VIP rooms and loan-sharking operations, most recently in 1999, when 40 people were killed in shootouts. ‘Broken Tooth’ Wan Kuok-koi, the jailed leader of the 14K triad, is near the end of a 15-year term he began serving in 1999.
“Crime comes inevitably with casinos,” Au Kam-sun, a Macau lawmaker, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The police make a clean-up every now and then to keep the triads in check.”
Macau police arrested 17 people on Aug. 2 for cheating in three of the city’s casinos. Those detained were involved in a scheme in which casino dealers took bribes and used tiny cameras to take images of cards on baccarat tables, Macau’s Judiciary Police spokesman Chan Kin-hong said by phone yesterday.
The case involved HK$90 million ($11.6 million) and centered on three casinos in Macau city and the adjacent Cotai Strip, Chan said, without identifying them.
Hong Kong police arrested 130 people and seized HK$8 million in cash and property on Aug. 2 in anti-triad raids targeting money-laundering, as part of the “Thunderbolt” operation with law enforcement agencies in Macau and mainland China’s Guangdong province.
Officers seized HK$3.4 million in various currencies, 11 watches and two cars and alleged that those arrested were involved in laundering money, operating illegal gambling establishments, and other triad-related offenses.
Ng Man-sun, the largest shareholder of Amax Holdings Ltd. (959), was beaten in a restaurant at a casino operated by his company, the New York Times reported on June 28. The Macau New Century Hotel stopped accepting guests after the assault because “certain unidentified persons” had been staying there for a long time, according to the South China Morning Post on July 3.
Ng, also known by his nickname “Market Wai,” requested that eight of the nine directors of Amax’s board be removed and replaced by five new directors, according to a company statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange on July 16.
The attack on him was followed by the killing of a Chinese woman in a neighborhood near the Venetian Macau casino, and the murder of two men at the Grand Lapa Hotel, which is operated by Mandarin Oriental International Ltd. (MAND), according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
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