Australians in Crown Resorts trial handed short terms in jail

Crown staff detained in China to face court amid notoriously high 99pc conviction rate

Crown Employees Face Chinese Judges on Illegal Gambling Charge

The three Australians employed by Crown Resorts facing court over charges relating to gambling pleaded guilty at the Baoshan District People's Court in Shanghai on Monday.

The 19 defendants were formally charged earlier this month, having been first detained late a year ago, and the trial at Baoshan District Court in the north of Shanghai is expected to reach a fairly swift conclusion.

Jason O'Connor, Crown Resorts' executive vice president for worldwide VIP business, was given a 10-month sentence.

The 19 dealt with at Monday's hearing comprised 17 current and two former employees of Crown Resorts, including three Australian citizens.

Crown operates casinos across Australia and the world, although this year it has undergone restructuring amid China's gambling crackdown, which has driven away many big-spenders and hurt revenues.

Crown said that Chinese gamblers only made up half this total, and counted for just 12% of total revenue for the business.

The company said the court fined O'Connor 2 million yuan ($293,000), Pan 400,000 yuan ($59,000) and Xuan 200,000 yuan ($29,000).

Three of the defendants, who were granted bail in November, were not fined or given a jail sentence, Crown said.

Fourteen Crown staff and two former employees have been in detention in Shanghai since October, when they were scooped up in a series of police raids.

Crown said in a statement on Monday that it was informed that the 19 were convicted of violating a law that calls for prison sentences for "anyone who organises gambling parties or is engaged in gambling as one's main business for the goal of making profits".

Crown's vice president in China, Malaysian Alfread Gomez, was also among the defendants.

Days after the detention of its staff in October, Crown said it respected China's jurisdiction and laws and the company needed to be "cautious and measured" in its commentary. At the same time, the government has been trying to stop the flow of Chinese money into foreign casinos. At least seven South Korean managers later received prison sentences of 13 or 14 months, according to court verdicts posted online.

The Australians were suspected of arranging junkets overseas for wealthy Chinese gamblers.

Billionaire James Packer has a 49 percent stake in Melbourne-based Crown.

Zhai Jian, described by Reuters news agency as a lawyer for the defendants, was quoted saying all had pled guilty. The companies have said their employees were released past year after serving jail terms of various lengths.

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