Often Partisan

Postcards from HK: The Macau Connection

During the trial of Carson Yeung on five counts of money laundering, Yeung’s defence team confirmed to the court room that Carson had made a lot of the money that flowed through the accounts in question in the VIP rooms and on the baccarat tables of Macau Casinos.

As part of the research for the book I am writing on Carson, I spent time in Macau on Saturday to get a feel for the place, to try to visualise how Carson made his money in the former Portuguese colony. It seems an important part of his defence is that the money in his accounts was legitimately there from gambling winnings – which of course do not have to be declared to the taxman in HK.

Macau has 33 casinos in all, and takes in more money per annum than Las Vegas and Atlantic City combined. I’ve never been to a casino before anywhere, and I was blown away by the intensity of the gaming floors. Gambling is like a religion to the Chinese – it’s something that is taken very seriously and consequently it’s unsurprising when you see huge crowds around the baccarat tables as these people gamble away their life savings on the turn of a card.

Obviously, as I’m just a simple council estate boy from Chelmsley Wood I’m not going to be allowed into the VIP rooms but from the little I did see I think it’s feasible that someone with a lot of luck could make a serious pot of money here. However, it isn’t just on the tables that Carson made his money – it was the operation of them.

It’s long been accepted that Carson started making his fortune by investing in the Greek Mythology Casino, which is in the New Century Hotel on Taipa Island, Macau. I didn’t venture that far into Macau – not only because of limited time but because I didn’t feel safe in doing so. Last June, Ng Man-sun (also known as “Street Market Wai”), who owns a large stake in the casino via a holding company called Amax Holdings was beaten up by six masked men whilst dining in the restaurant of his own hotel. From speaking to people it appears Ng hadn’t left his hotel for some time for fear of something like this happening and the beating sent shockwaves through Macau as it looked like the old triad wars were starting again.

I have a suspicion that Macau still has yet to feature in Carson’s trial; people I have spoken to here off the record have suggested that Amax was where Carson made his money and it’s true that Street Market Wai and Carson have connections – what concerns me is that anyone in Macau who is connected to the gambling and junket operations  business (as Amax are) tends to also have connections to organised crime. This is particularly due to the fact that junket operators, who bring in tourists from the mainland and deal with credit lines etc as mainlanders are under massive currency restrictions cannot recover debts via judicial methods in China as gambling is illegal there. Amax are massively in trouble at the moment with recent accounts stating they cannot trade as a going concern amid announcements last year of HK$2billion worth of bad debts.

Why is this important to Birmingham City? The worry is for me that we’ve not seen the last of the bad news in the trial; the rumours here are that the prosecution are going to make a big deal of Carson’s connections to Macau and with insinuations already in place of money being funnelled to Birmingham City when Carson made the original share purchase it leaves the club potentially in a tricky position – as I stated on the Tom Ross phone in back in April the Football League have punished teams in the past for indiscretions of owners even when the owners have long departed. For example, Watford found that out when they got a transfer embargo and narrowly escaped a points deduction and a fine in April of this year thanks to indiscretions from their previous owner Lawrence Bassini, who sold the club in 2012.

Due to the nature of this article, I’ve turned comments off.

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