China jails Australian casino exec over gambling crimes

Posted June 27, 2017

Three Australian employees of Crown Resorts could be released from a Chinese jail within months after being handed nine and 10-month sentences for gambling-related offences.

June 26 Australia's Crown Resorts Ltd said on Monday that 16 of its employees were fined a total of A$1.67 million ($1.27 million) by a Chinese court for breaching the country's gaming marketing laws.

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The consul did not say what sentences were given to the Chinese staffers and one employee from Malaysia.

Crown confirmed its head of global VIP gambling, Australian Jason O'Connor, was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined RMB2 million, or $390,000.

"The three Australians and the other defendants pleaded guilty", the Australian Consul General in Shanghai, Graeme Meehan, said outside the Baoshan District People's Court.

Crown Resorts employees are standing trial in a Chinese city on gambling charges, in a case that highlights the sensitivity of doing certain businesses in China.

The sentences will run from the date the employees were first detained on October 14 a year ago, meaning they would only have a couple of months left to serve.

"We will be continuing to provide consular assistance to the Australians and their families for as long as that's required", he said.

A Crown Resorts media spokeswoman said the company would not be making any comment on Monday, but could release a statement in due course.

Casino gambling and the promoting of gambling are illegal in China, and agents are banned from organizing groups of more than 10 Chinese to gamble overseas.

Two of the 19 facing trial are former staff members.

Australian public broadcaster the ABC said that with eight months already served in detention, Mr Xuan and Ms Pan should each have one month remaining to serve in detention, while Mr O'Connor was likely to face another two months behind bars.

O'Connor, a senior executive was in charge of luring the Chinese gamblers, a BBC report read.

Three of the defendants, who were granted bail in November, were not fined or given a jail sentence, Crown said.

The court schedule showed they were on trial for "suspected gambling".

"Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China", the firm added.

For a few years now, foreign casino operators have been trying to attract more players from the Chinese VIP market, violating the law which forbids any promotion of gambling activities.