Criminal syndicate foiled in $210K counterfeit chip scam at Macau casino

A criminal syndicate operating a suspected counterfeit chip scam has been dismantled by authorities in Macau, leading to the arrest of several individuals. The scam reportedly resulted in losses totaling HKD1.62 million ($210,000) for a local casino.

The Judiciary Police (PJ) disclosed that a total of 33 fake chips, valued at around HKD1.62 million, were seized during the operation, Macau Business reported. Five suspects from Mainland China have been successfully apprehended, while at least one individual involved in the scam remains at large.

The investigation was initiated on January 20 when a casino in Cotai reported a suspicious incident. A dealer raised concerns after detecting discrepancies in a batch of 25 chips, each originally designated with a face value of HKD10,000 ($1,279).

Subsequent police investigations revealed that the suspects had tampered with the chips, initially valued at HKD100 ($12.79), to closely resemble genuine HKD10,000 chips. These counterfeit chips were then exchanged and laundered at baccarat tables within the casino, the report said.

The five individuals captured in Macau have denied any involvement in the scam. Instead, they asserted that they merely followed instructions and received compensation for their participation in casino games. Meanwhile, three other suspects fled to mainland China, where they were subsequently apprehended by mainland authorities.

The development comes amid a growing concern of suspicious transactions in Macau. Casinos in Macau recorded a threefold increase in suspicious transactions in 2023, according to data from the Financial Intelligence Office (GIF).
As per the official data, the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) filed by gaming operators reached 3,431, compared to 1,177 in 2022, representing the highest figure since the Office commenced publishing STRs data.

These reports accounted for a substantial 74.4% of the total STRs, which amounted to 4,614 in 2023, more than doubling the count from the preceding year. Notably, in 2022, during pandemic restrictions that significantly impacted the city, STRs from gaming companies constituted just over half of the total reported. Financial institutions and insurance companies also observed an uptick in reported suspicious transactions, with 887 cases in the past year compared to 765 in 2022.

In response to the increased number of STRs, the GIF forwarded 116 of these reports to the Public Prosecutions Office in 2023.