BEIJING (AP) — Australian diplomats have visited two citizens detained in Shanghai as part of a Chinese police probe into Crown Resorts Ltd., Australia’s largest casino operator.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement Tuesday that consular officials visited two Australian Crown Resorts employees who have been detained and have asked to visit a third. Bishop did not provide details about the employees’ conditions or the Chinese investigation.
Three Australians and 15 Chinese Crown Resorts employees have been detained since last Thursday and questioned for suspected involvement in gambling crimes.
Although charges have not been announced, industry analysts speculate that the case could stem from Crown Resorts’ efforts to lure high-rolling Chinese gamblers to its overseas casinos. China has previously handed prison sentences to casino operators from South Korea for marketing gambling trips to Chinese customers.
Under Chinese law, operating casinos and organizing overseas gambling tours of more than 10 people are prohibited. Chinese police have recently linked overseas gambling with money laundering and corruption.
Citing an unnamed source with knowledge of the Chinese investigation, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Chinese authorities warned Crown Resorts in 2015 about its efforts to lure customers in China. The Melbourne-based company changed the focus of its marketing to its resorts, rather than casinos, but authorities did not consider the shift to be “material,” according to Bloomberg.
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