Currency exchanges, loan sharks surge

Beijing to ramp up efforts to combat illegal money exchange activities in Macau

Reading time 1:18 min

Beijing is escalating its crackdown on illegal money exchange activities within Macau's casino industry as part of a broader campaign to tackle illegal gambling and money laundering.

China's Ministry of Public Security held a high-level meeting to coordinate a nationwide crackdown on these illicit operations, Macau Daily Times reported, citing an article in the People's Daily.

The initiative aims to address a range of illegal activities, including underground gambling, money laundering, loan sharking, and scams, which have contributed to various crimes such as fights, fraud, thefts, and illegal immigration.

Authorities have highlighted the rapid expansion of unauthorized currency exchanges and loan sharks in Macau, often linked to violence, scams, and smuggling, thereby "affecting social stability" in the city.

The planned response involves strengthened border controls, improved coordination to apprehend fugitives, and deeper investigations to dismantle the entire industry chain of criminal syndicates. Additionally, closer cooperation with Macau's police force is on the agenda, the report said.

“The substantial increase in the number of tourists, while accelerating the recovery of the gaming industry, will inevitably lead to an increase in relevant illicit activities, especially illegal money exchange activities that have become more intense,“ Secretary for Security Wong Sio Chak said last week, as per the report.

"People who engage in the illegal exchange of money, commonly known as ‘money exchange scammers,’ have been disrupting the security environment of casinos and peripheral areas for a long time, and are responsible for several serious crimes."

According to the city's security office, Macau has experienced a significant increase in crimes associated with illegal money exchanges. In the first half of 2023, 8,124 individuals were intercepted, nearly three times the number from the previous year when pandemic-related restrictions were enforced.

Furthermore, local law enforcement intercepted a cross-border fraud syndicate, leading to the arrest of over 110 individuals. During the operation, authorities seized more than 30,000 exchange coupons, uncovering at least 70 local cases valued at over HKD18 million ($2.3 million), the report said.

Beijing's focus on illegal gambling, money laundering, and underground banking in Macau comes amidst the city's resurgence in gaming revenues following the easing of travel restrictions for mainland Chinese tourists.

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