That’s according to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which has linked the company, Chow Tai Fook, to the former leader of the 14K Triads, “Broken Tooth” Wan Kuok Koi.
The news comes as Queensland kicked off a public inquiry Tuesday into Star’s suitability to continue holding a gambling license in the state. And it raises questions about why Queensland regulators approved Chow Tai Fook as a “fit and proper” partner in the AU$3.6 billion (US$2.55 billion) Queen’s Wharf development in 2015.
Former Queensland auditor-general Len Scanlan, a probity advisor on the project, confirmed to ABC that the government was unaware of Chow Tai Fook’s checkered history at the time.
Cheng and Ho, Alleged Triad Ties
The company, which owns 25% of the venture, was formed by jewelry and property billionaire Cheng Yu Tung, who was Hong Kong’s third-richest man when he died in 2020.
In the 1980s, Cheng went into business with Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho, who at the time owned the casino monopoly in the gambling enclave. Ho also died in 2020.
The Ho family is blacklisted from the casino industries of some jurisdictions, including New South Wales, for its alleged links to triads.
When Cheng and Ho opened their Macau VIP rooms, they used the 14K and Sun Yee On Triads as debt collectors, according to ABC.
Among them was “Broken Tooth” Koi, who once held an $8 million stake in a VIP room owned by Cheng and Ho, according to Macau prosecutors.
In the 1990s, the dog days of Portuguese rule, triad groups fought vicious turf wars for control of Macau’s legal VIP rooms and underground gambling dens. In 1998, Macau gaming inspector Francisco Xavier Pinto do Amaral was shot dead in the street in broad daylight. He had tried to impose tighter regulations on the VIP rooms.
‘Broken Tooth’ Arrest
Wan was arrested later that year on suspicion of the attempted car bombing of a local police chief. He was convicted of illegal gambling, loan sharking, and criminal association, and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He was released in 2012 and reentered the junket business. In May 2015, he opened the Guoying VIP Club at L’Arc Casino in Macau.
In December 2020, Wan was sanctioned by the US government. According to a statement from the Treasury Department at the time, he was still the head of the 14K and had been spreading his criminal network through Southeast Asia and across China’s Belt and Road economic bloc.
As the licensing review begins in Queensland, Star Entertainment is still awaiting the outcome of a similar inquiry in New South Wales. Both were triggered by reports in the Australian media alleging Star wooed suspected criminals, foreign agents, and fraudsters to gamble at its casinos from at least 2014 to 2021.