Crown Casino Employees Sentenced to Six Months Prison

Written by:
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Published on:
Jun/26/2017

Three Australian employees of Crown Resorts could be released from a Chinese jail within months after being handed nine and 10-month sentences for gambling related offences in a Shanghai court.

James Packer-controlled Crown will pay $1.7 million in fines on behalf of 16 employees after 19 current and former staff pleaded guilty to charges of illegal promotion of gambling on the Chinese mainland at a hearing on Monday.

Crown confirmed its head of international VIP gambling, Australian Jason O'Connor, was sentenced to 10 months in jail and fined RMB2 million, or $A390,000.

Australian-Chinese dual nationals, Jerry Xuan and Jenny Pan, received sentences of nine months' imprisonment and were also fined $78,000 and $39,000 respectively.

"Of the 16 defendants who were fined, 11 were also sentenced to a period of incarceration of nine months and five to a period of 10 months, with time in detention since 14 October 2016 to be taken into account for all," Crown said in a statement.

Australian Consul General in Shanghai Graeme Meehan told media after the hearing that the three Australians convicted will have little time left to serve as the sentences run from the date of their detention.

The employees were taken into custody by Chinese authorities last October but were charged earlier this month.

If Mr O'Connor's sentence is dated from his detention on October 14, 2016, he could be eligible for release in mid-August, however no details of the release date have been provided.

Mr Zuan and Ms Pan could be eligible for release in July.

All sentences included deportation, Crown said.

One of the other defendants is a Malaysian citizen and the remaining defendants are Chinese citizens.

"Crown remains respectful of the sovereign jurisdiction of the People's Republic of China and does not intend to comment further at this time," the casino operator said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Three employees were released on bail in November 2016 and were not fined or sentenced to a period of incarceration on Monday, Crown said.

The proceedings in Shanghai's Baoshan District Court were closed to the media but family members were reportedly ushered into the courthouse as they arrived on Monday morning with lawyers in a convoy of cars - some of them wearing masks.

China is in the midst of a crackdown on the promotion of gambling on the island of Macau, where Crown's joint venture hosted businessmen, officials and high rollers from the mainland.

According to Chinese law, anyone who "organises gambling parties or is engaged in gambling as one's main business for the purpose of making profits", can face up to three years in prison.

Since the detentions, Crown has scaled back its Chinese ambitions, selling down its stake in the Macau-based joint venture Melco Crown, before offloading its final stake in Melco Resorts & Entertainment for $987 million.

Crown Resorts shares fell to a year-low of $9.71 following the detentions in October, but were up four cents at $12.79 at Monday's close.

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