Cameraman and photographer film a court van arrives at an entrance gate of the Baoshan District People's Court in Shanghai, China, Monday, June 26, 2017. Australian and Chinese casino employees stood trial Monday on charges relating to gambling, in a case that highlights the sensitivity of doing certain businesses in China.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China sentences 3 Australian Crown Resorts staff to prison

June 26, 2017 - 12:59 am

SHANGHAI (AP) — Australian and Chinese employees of a casino company on Monday pleaded guilty to charges relating to gambling and the three Australians were sentenced to nine or 10 months' imprisonment, an Australian official said.

The 19 defendants, including three Australians from the sales and marketing team of Australia's Crown Resorts Ltd., appeared at a court in Shanghai. Casino gambling, the marketing of casinos and organizing overseas gambling trips involving 10 or more people are illegal in China.

"The three Australians and the other defendants pleaded guilty," the Australian Consul General in Shanghai, Graeme Meehan, said outside the Baoshan District People's Court.

Jason O'Connor, the head of Crown Resorts international VIP programs was sentenced to 10 months in prison, and Australian-Chinese dual nationals Jerry Xuan and Jenny Pan received sentences of nine months' imprisonment, Meehan said.

Their sentences start from the date they were detained, which was Oct. 14, he added.

At least half of the 19 had been on bail awaiting trial, according to an officer from the court's propaganda office who only gave his surname, Li.

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

Casino gambling and the promoting of gambling are illegal in mainland China and agents are banned from organizing groups of more than 10 Chinese citizens to gamble abroad. According to Chinese law, anyone who "runs a gambling house or makes gambling his profession" can face up to three years in prison.

However, gambling is allowed in the Chinese enclave of Macau — Asia's gambling center — and Chinese are often coveted by foreign casinos.

The industry has been known to skirt China's ban by touting destination packages rather than gambling, particularly as Chinese President Xi Jinping's ongoing corruption crackdown has deterred some gamblers from Macau.

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Watt reported from Beijing. AP researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.

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