China jails Crown Resorts
staff over gambling crimes
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[June 26, 2017]
By Winni Zhou and Engen Tham
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - A Chinese court jailed
16 employees of Crown Resorts Ltd, including three Australians, in a
quick-fire trial on Monday that caps a lengthy probe into how the firm
lured Chinese high-rollers to its casinos.
Melbourne-based Crown, 49 percent owned by billionaire James Packer,
said in a statement the employees were jailed for between nine to ten
months and handed a total fine of 8.62 million yuan ($1.26 million),
which Crown would pay.
The sentences will run from the date the employees were first detained
on Oct. 14 last year, meaning they would only have a couple of months
left to serve. A lawyer for the defendants said they were "satisfied
with the result".
The case prompted Crown, the world's biggest listed casino company
outside of China, to retreat from global expansion plans and sell off
assets in China's gambling hub Macau, and instead shift its focus back
The Australian consul general in Shanghai, Graeme Meehan, earlier told
reporters outside the Baoshan District Court that Crown's head of
international VIP gambling Jason O'Connor was given a ten month
sentence. The two other Australians, Jane Pan and Jerry Xuan, were
handed nine month sentences.
A total of 19 defendants, also including one Malaysian citizen, were
formally charged earlier this month, having been first detained late
last year. Zhai Jian, a defence lawyer, said the defendants had pled
Three of the defendants, who were granted bail in November, were not
fined or given a jail sentence, Crown said.
"Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People's
Republic of China," the firm added.
At the end of the swift trial that only began on Monday morning,
relatives and lawyers were whisked away. Journalists had been barred
from attending the proceedings.
The husband of one defendant told Reuters after the trial the outcome
was better than he had hoped. Requesting anonymity, he said his wife was
given a nine month sentence and would be released on July 14.
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The logo of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd adorns the
hotel and casino complex in Melbourne, Australia, June 13, 2017.
Donald Rothwell, a professor of international law at the Australian National
University, said the guilty pleas had helped the employees avoid longer
sentences, though added the case did underline legal risks of doing business in
The case was part of a wider crackdown on gambling in China.
Crown does not directly run casinos in China, but last month it sold its
remaining stake in Macau-focused Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd for $1.16
billion. The company had also been engaged in a big push to lure Chinese
gamblers to its Australian operations.
Aside from pulling out of the Macau, Crown has quit an agreement to develop a
casino in Las Vegas and cancelled an ambitious plan, which it floated before the
arrests, to split into three separate companies - one of which would have
included its offshore assets.
China has been cracking down on attempts by casinos to woo high-spending Chinese
gamblers within China. In 2015 thirteen South Korean casino managers were
arrested in China for offering Chinese gamblers free tours, free hotels and
The trial is the latest in a series of high-profile cases in China involving
foreign firms. British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC was fined nearly $500
million in 2014 and food maker OSI saw employees jailed last year.
($1 = 6.8406 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Engen Tham in SHANGHAI; Additional reporting by
Colin Packham and Byron Kaye in SYDNEY; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by
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