The once glimmering reputation Macau had as the hottest gambling destination in the world is getting tainted more and more after local police acted out a raid of the town’s hotels and casinos stemming from a series of deadly attacks and murders of guests that has caused unease in the town.
The overnight operation, called “Thunderbolt” was executed between August 3 and 4 when Macau police questioned as many as 1,300 individuals and detained around 150 people, the Unitary Police Service of Macau said in a statement that was sent to Bloomberg.
The crackdown comes as a way for the police to keep tabs on the criminal groups in Macau that have wreaked havoc on the town dating back to the late 90’s when it was replete with gang wars from rivaling groups of triads, all of whom competed for control of casino VIP rooms. These days, criminal activity in Macau has been picking up, especially after separate incidences of attacks and murder have been reported in recent days.
One of these attacks involved Ng Man-sum, the largest shareholder of Amax Holdings Ltd., who, according to a New York Times report from June 28, was beaten in a restaurant at a casino that was operated by his company. After the attack on Ng, multiple cases of murders followed, one involving a Chinese woman in a neighborhood near the Venetian Macau casino and another of two men at the Grand Lapa Hotel.
In a telephone interview with Bloomberg, Macau lawmaker Au Kam-sun explained the rationale behind the Macau police’s actions are necessary to keep law and order on the straight-arrow in what is becoming an increasingly uneasy town.
“Crime comes inevitably with casinos,” Au said. “The police make a clean-up every now and then to keep the triads in check.”
Even Macau’s casinos have become embroiled in this latest round of raids as local police arrested 17 people last week on charges of cheating in three of the town’s casinos that amounted to about HKD $90 million ($11.6 million). Macau’s Judiciary Police spokesman Chan Kin-hong told Bloomberg that casino dealers received bribes from these crooks in exchange for providing information on baccarat tables, including the use of tiny cameras to take images of cards.
The “Thunderbolt” operation involved joint cooperation from law enforcement agencies in Macau, the Hong Kong police, and similar agencies in the Guangdong province of Mainland China. With the unprecedented success Macau has enjoyed in the past couple of years, only the naive would think that there isn’t a dark and ugly side to this equation.
Local authorities understand this better than anybody else and they’re responding with a raid like the “Thunderbolt” operation to ensure that Macau doesn’t fall back to its primordial days of crime and chaos.