Four employees, including Australian nationals Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan, were the first to emerge from a Shanghai detention facility, Reuters reported.
The report also quoted a man who identified himself as a lawyer for the detainees’ families—but declined to give his name—saying that Chinese authorities also released six other Crown staffers from a second facility in Shanghai.
With this, only six Crown-affiliated staffers remain in Chinese authorities’ custody, including Jason O’Connor, who is expected to be freed in August.
O’Connor, along with 17 Crown-affiliated staffers, were arrested in October and indicted on charges of promoting gambling, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. O’Connor was handed a 10-month sentence, while the two other Australians were handed nine-month sentences each. The sentences, according to the Australian consul general in Shanghai, would run from the date when the Crown staffers were first detained, which means the employees only have a couple of months left to serve.
The Australian casino group’s activities in China caught the attention of Chinese authorities, who have been keeping a close watch on casino operators who are attracting high rollers from the mainland to gamble overseas.
Court documents from the Shanghai Baoshan district court revealed that Crown Resorts generated $664.91 million in VIP revenue from its mainland Chinese visitors, noting that the sales plan, profit targets and performance details obtained from Crown indicated the casino company had “increased its targets in mainland China over recent years.”
The arrest of Crown’s staff in China caused a dramatic fallout for the Australian casino operator and its controlling shareholder, James Packer, who sold out of his Macau joint venture and scrapped plans for a casino project in Las Vegas, and also prompted a reshuffle in Crown’s executive ranks.