Australian Crown executive Jason O'Connor released from prison in China
Chinese authorities have released Australian Crown Casino executive Jason O’Connor from prison following the completion of his sentence for gambling-related offences.
Mr O’Connor, the head of Australia’s Crown Resorts international VIP programs was sentenced to 10 months in prison in Shanghai.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed Mr O’Connor has been released from detention and is returning to Australia.
The marketing of casinos and organising overseas gambling trips involving 10 or more people are illegal in mainland China.
The case against Crown Resorts’ staff comes as authorities crack down on gambling as part of a wide campaign against official corruption.
Nineteen defendants, including three Australians from Crown’s sales and marketing team, had been convicted by the court in Shanghai.
According to Crown Resorts, the 17 current and two former employees were convicted of offences including organising gambling parties or being engaged in gambling as one’s main business, which carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Mr O’Connor is the last of three Australian Crown employees to be released.
The time he and the other defendants spent in detention, since October 14, was counted towards their sentences.
“We are very pleased that our employees are being reunited with their families,” Crown executive chairman John Alexander said in an emailed statement.
Following the arrests in October, Crown Resorts began withdrawing from its Chinese business to concentrate on the Australian market.
In May, it said it raised $987 million after it sold off the last of its stake in a decade-long joint-venture casino operator in Macau, a Chinese enclave where gambling is legal.
Casino operators across Asia have sought to lure Chinese high-rollers who have avoided Macau — the world’s biggest gambling market — because of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ongoing corruption crackdown.
At the same time, the Government has been trying to stop the flow of Chinese money into foreign casinos.
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