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Macau probes two officials for graft as casino hub extends corruption crackdown

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 13:01
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Two officials in the southern Chinese territory of Macau are under investigation for taking bribes and abusing their power as authorities move to stamp out corruption in the world's largest gambling hub.

[HONG KONG] Two officials in the southern Chinese territory of Macau are under investigation for taking bribes and abusing their power as authorities move to stamp out corruption in the world's largest gambling hub.

Macau's Commission Against Corruption said in a online statement posted on Dec 14 that it had "uncovered bribe-taking by a customs inspector and another case of passive corruption and abuse of power by a Marine and Water Bureau chief." Seven people including government officials were investigated for graft earlier this year.

The developments are in stark contrast to last year, when no high-profile officials were questioned about bribery, according to the website of Macau's Commission Against Corruption. The commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Commissioner Against Corruption Cheong Weng Chon was sworn in December 2014 during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and pledged to support the mainland in its mission to stamp out corruption.

Macau's graft body said the customs inspector had accepted bribes to allow a gambler enter Macau with more cash than legally allowed, while the Marine and Water officer received advantages from a person in charge of a ferry services company.

"According to the investigation results, the chief had also used his powers to help cover up the irregular practices of the ferry services company on many occasions, so the latter could be free from penalties even though its operations did not comply with the instructions and regulations set out by the Marine and Water Bureau."

Macau has two main ferry operators, Turbo Jet owned by Shun Tak Holdings, and Cotai Water Jet owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson's Sands China. Neither company were immediately available for comment.

The investigations come at a time when gaming revenues in the former Portuguese colony of Macau have dropped to five-year lows.

Revenues are expected to tumble some 35 per cent for 2015.

Beijing has repeated calls for the special administrative region to accelerate diversification away from the casino industry. But Macau, which earns more than 80 per cent of its revenues from gaming, is still acutely reliant on how much players are dropping on the baccarat tables.

REUTERS