Macau’s Judiciary Police and Chinese authorities have stopped a $ 1.78 billion criminal operation.
Macau Stops Illegal Operation
Macau’s Judiciary Police announced on Tuesday that it had successfully stopped an illegal point-of-sale (POS) operation in the gambling capital of the world.
According to the report, the alleged criminal operation has been running since 2016. Since its inception, the crime ring has generated over ¥ 11.62 billion ($ 1.78 billion), with criminals in both Macau and China benefiting. The gang running the operation has pocketed around ¥ 69 million.
Authorities believe the criminals were using a network of illegally modified handheld bank card payment terminals. These terminals were originally meant for mainland China, but were repurposed for use in shops across Macau, the police have stated.
According to Judiciary Police Spokesperson Cheong Kam Fai, the Macau police force took decisive action this Sunday. Authorities cracked down on 12 shops, two offices and 19 residential flats. In total, 30 people have been detained, including 18 Chinese nationals. Police also seized several of the modified payment terminals.
Macau’s police force was aided by authorities from mainland China, who conducted their own investigation across the border. Chinese police arrested an additional 39 suspects in the Fujian, Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces.
In related news, Hong Kong police recently raided an underground gambling hall and arrested 16 people.
Possible Link to Gambling
During the press briefing, Mr. Cheong noted that the terminals were likely used to circumvent Macau’s relatively high transaction fees. The criminals would register Macau-based sales as if they were conducted in mainland China, where the fees are significantly lower. The modified machine terminals were spread covertly across various storefronts – including pawnshops and jewelry stores.
Macau’s authorities believe this network filled a particular gambling-related niche, as all aforementioned storefronts were located only a short distance away from casinos. It is possible that gamblers may have used these terminals to convert money from their mainland bank cards into cash through a faux transaction.
Gambling and gaming-related crime in Macau is not unheard of. However, crime levels have in fact dropped this year. In November, the Macau Office of the Secretary of Security reported a staggering 80% drop in gambling-related crime rates.
Despite this bit of good news, 2020 has been a difficult year for the special administrative region. The lockdown has taken a hefty toll on Macau’s gambling based economy and it remains unclear when to expect a potential rebound.
Things might be looking up, however. According to data released from Macau’s Financial Services Bureau, tax revenue has more than tripled in November!