China Busts $250M Illegal Gambling Junket Operator

Chinese authorities continue to pursue action against illegal gambling. With China prohibiting all forms of games of chance and pursuing wrongdoers overseas, anything but the National Lottery is illegal.

In the latest move, authorities in the Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces have busted a criminal operation that offered junket services and flew Chinese high rollers to Tigre de Cristal, a Russian casino resort in the north of the country, and a close trip from China’s northern provinces.

Junkets facilitate trips abroad so that ordinary and well-heeled gamblers can enjoy gambling without worrying too much about the legal status of the activity. Based on the provinces’ law enforcement statements, the junket operator had been running a total of $250 million worth of operations.

Police officers managed to apprehend 142 suspects across 30 cities while collaborating with cross-border counterparts to conduct the operation in as many as 12 Chinese provinces. In the course of the investigation, authorities identified 18 shell companies and ten travel agencies, as well as underground banks, usually used to help gamblers return the money home or get them out of the country.

China’s Long Arm Reaches Home, and Abroad

A total of 4,000 bank cards have been seized and officers spoke to 2,963 gamblers who had used the junket service. The criminals focused on shuttling gamblers across the border with Russia and into Primorye, a special economic zone where Tigre de Cristal is based.

China has been on the offensive insofar as gambling operations are concerned. The country has doubled down on its efforts to prevent gamblers from leaving the country to exotic destinations, citing citizens’ safety as their foremost concern.

China has long exercised soft power in Cambodia and the Philippines, asking local governments to bust operators that targeted Chinese tourists. Junket operators are now prohibited in China and the only allowed gambling may happen across the border with Macau.

China has targeted private citizens as well as organized groups, holding both accountable. In September, the Chinese government issued penalties to the tune of $900,000 on ten private people in the country, because they participated in a scheme that facilitated the remittance of money obtained through illegal gambling.

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