Fall of the Junket King


The Chinese government doesn’t play around, employing tactics both fair and foul to get what they want. This has long been true in mainland China, but it’s also becoming more prevalent in former autonomous regions such as Macao and Hong Kong. The fall of Alvin Chau, aka “The Junket King,” is one such example.

Who is Alvin Chau?

In case you don’t know, Alvin Chau is a 47-year-old billionaire who’s made headlines in China for the better part of a decade. At the moment, he’s sitting in a Macau jail cell, awaiting trial on the following charges:

  • Running an illegal online gambling operation in the Philippines
  • Associating with criminals
  • Money laundering
  • Illegal gambling

These charges carry a sentence of up to 12 years in prison. In addition, Chau is also wanted in the city of Wenzhou for “causing severe damage to the social order of the country.” The latter mostly stems from Chau moving large sums of money out of the country by illegal means.

Rise to the Top

In his 20s, Chau allegedly worked for a Triad gang leader known as “Broken Tooth” Kuok-koi. According to stories, ‘ol “Broken Tooth” convinced one of his pals to invest in Alvin’s first business venture. After that, he was off and running.

Chau’s idea revolved around gambling junkets, where his company, Suncity, would help wealthy mainlanders spend their money at Macau casinos. He would later use the same strategy in Australia, bringing Chinese customers (and their cash) to SkyCity, Star and Crown. In return, the casinos paid Chau a commission on each dollar gambled by his clients.

The Junket King was soon swimming in money, and Chau wasn’t shy about how he spent it. He dated models and actresses, all while still married, and even paid one woman a HK$300 million breakup fee. He also became a film producer, as well as launching casino projects in Asia and Russia. Meanwhile, the Chinese government seemed willing to turn a blind eye to his behaviour in the short term, even appointing Chau to a committee.

Getting Squeezed

While the Chinese government might have been willing to overlook Chau, the same couldn’t be said for Australia. In specific, he became a target for the federal agency known as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.

The ACIC made Suncity a priority, and it started squeezing hard. Chau was denied a visa, keeping him away from Aussie casinos, as well as his numerous other business ventures. The organization also kept a close eye on his employees, nabbing and deporting anyone who got out of line.

By 2020, the strategy had paid off. While not entirely vanquished, Suncity had greatly reduced their presence in Australia. Enough so, in fact, that it was removed from the priority list.

Alvin Chau arrested by Macau police

The Inevitable Fall

Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese government has sought to combat immorality and corruption throughout the country. They’ve also worked hard to extend greater control into autonomous regions such as Hong Kong and Macau. When you consider both of these, it was just a matter of time before Alvin Chau suffered his inevitable fall from grace.

On November 27th, Chau and several employees were arrested by Macau police. The court denied him bail, labelling him a “flight risk.” Since then, Chau has reportedly confessed to his various crimes, perhaps hoping to throw himself on the mercy of the court.

Under normal circumstances, I would like a billionaire’s chances in the legal system. However, this is China we’re talking about, and the government is looking to send a strong message. I would expect Chau to serve at least a few years in prison, while much of his fortune will no doubt be confiscated for “the people.”

Suncity ceased operations in Macau on December 1st, a few days after Chau’s arrest. Due to his failure to repay a US$40.2 million loan to investors, it also appears that Chau will soon lose controlling interest of the company he founded.

Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that the story of the Junket King isn’t over yet.