Crown Resorts’ head of VIP operations, Jason O’Connor, is expected to be released from a Shanghai prison on Saturday after serving a 10-month sentence for promoting gambling.
He is to be deported on the same day.
Nineteen Crown staff pleaded guilty to the crime of promoting gambling in June, in a trial that lasted half a day.
The swoop by Chinese authorities on Crown’s mainland China marketing team last October in effect spelt the end of the James Packer’s casino company’s aggressive pursuit of Chinese high rollers to fill its VIP gaming rooms in Australia.
Mr O’Connor, who lived with his family in Melbourne, was visiting China to meet with Chinese high rollers at the time of the raid, and was picked up by authorities on his way to the airport.
Chinese court documents reportedly showed he was responsible for the Chinese sales targets.
He was sentenced to 10 months, including time served, after pleading guilty.
Four other staff members – Crown’s head of China, Alfred Gomez, and three Chinese nationals – received the same sentence and are also expected to be released.
The swoop in effect spelt the end of James Packer’s casino company’s aggressive pursuit of Chinese high rollers to fill its VIP gaming rooms in Australia. Photo: Bloomberg
Two other Australians, Jerry Xuan and Jane Pan Dan, were among another 11 staff who were sentenced to nine months’ jail and were released on July 12.
Mr O’Connor was fined $390,000, Ms Pan $78,000 and Mr Xuan about $39,000.
The Shanghai Detention Centre where Crown staff were initially held in 2016. Photo: Dave Tacon
However, unlike the other two Australian Crown staff, Mr O’Connor was sentenced to deportation and is expected to be taken straight to the airport.
Under Chinese regulations, where a foreigner is sentenced to expulsion as a supplemental penalty after the end of a prison term, “the foreigner shall be escorted by prison officers, guarding armed police and foreign affairs police … and may be handcuffed if necessary”.
“Personnel executing a deportation shall monitor the means of transportation for the foreigner being deported and shall not leave the premises until s/he has boarded and departed,” the regulations state.
The promotion of gambling is illegal in China, and the Chinese government has cracked down on foreign casinos attracting wealthy Chinese to travel overseas to gamble.
By Kirsty Needham
Sydney Morning Herald