Australia’s Crown says all staff held in China now free

Australia’s foreign minister says Chinese authorities have released from jail a top Australian executive at a casino company following the completion of his sentence on gambling-related offenses. (Source: AP) Related News

Australia’s Crown Resorts said on Monday that China had released all of the casino group’s employees who were detained as part of a gambling crackdown last year. Mogul James Packer’s gaming company said the last of the 19 current and former Crown employees had been set free after being held for 10 months.

“Crown is pleased that all of our employees have now been released and reunited with their families and loved ones,” executive chairman John Alexander said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the employees whose sentences ended on Saturday were expelled from the country the same day. “We hope relevant countries can inculcate their citizens living in China to conscientiously abide by laws and regulations and not be engaged in illegal activities,” Hua told reporters.

The 19 defendants had pleaded guilty at a Shanghai court in June and 16 of them, including three Australians, were given sentences of between nine and 10 months in jail. The sentence included time served since they were arrested last October.

Three who were granted bail in November were not jailed.

Jason O’Connor, the executive vice president of Crown division VIP International in charge of luring rich Chinese to Australia, had been given a 10-month jail term and a two million yuan (USD 292,000) fine.

The two other Australians, Pan Dan and Jerry Xuan, were given nine-month sentences and 400,000 yuan (USD 58,000) and 200,000 yuan (USD 29,000) fines, respectively. The executives were accused of breaching local anti-corruption laws by organising banned gambling activities overseas for wealthy Chinese.

The episode prompted a major restructuring at Crown, which runs its flagship casino in Melbourne and is also developing a large gaming resort in Sydney. With revenues from Chinese high rollers waning, Crown last year sold its stake in Macau’s Melco joint venture and shelved plans for a Las Vegas casino, concentrating instead on its Australian operations.

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