“Problems go well beyond just a few low-end desperados”

In an interview with AFP risk consultant Steve Vickers, the former head of the Hong Kong police criminal intelligence bureau, while discussing Macau’s current security threats, the specialist agrees that the old gang members like Broken Tooth no longer pose a significant danger. But he is far less sanguine about triad activity in general, seeing its reach extending in step with the boom in the city’s legitimate casino business.

“The problems in Macau are very deep and go well beyond just a few low-end desperados,” he told reporters.

“Wan Kuok-koi was a particularly violent gangster who exploited the weak government situation at the time – that time has gone, his time has gone. It’s a completely different security situation now.

“The more difficult, pressing problem is the almost total control of junket operators by triad societies.”

Independent but hugely important players in the USD35 billion casino business, junkets operate in what Vickers calls a “legal void”, collecting their clients’ debts in exchange for a healthy cut from the casinos. They act, in effect, as an “informal financial system”.

“The Macau gaming business is underpinned by what is essentially illegal currency movement from the mainland,” he explained, referring to laws prohibiting Chinese nationals from moving more than USD5,000 a day into the territory.

The APF dispatch also quoted lawmaker Au Kam-san (New Macau Association) who acknowledged, “All the gangs have established their turf in the respective casinos”. “I don’t foresee a return of the violent past unless the gaming market shrinks dramatically and the pie is not big enough to be shared,” he said. “The triad gangs in Macau have been around for a long time. As long as they can make their living from casinos, they won’t create a public disturbance.”

The interviews were given following the aftermath of Artur Chiang Calderon and four other alleged triad members arrest Saturday for “suspicion of planning to commit murder”, masterminded by the former PJ police detective and Wan Kuok-koi’s right-hand man, according to PJ sources. Wan’s release is due Saturday, December 1st.