Published: November 28, 2023, 08:35h.
Last updated on: November 28, 2023, 08:35h.
The mastermind of a disputed casino development on Saipan, Ji Xiaobo, has been cited as the “head of a criminal syndicate” by a Chinese court.
Ji Xiaobo is currently at large, controlling Imperial Pacific International (IPI) along with his mother, Cui Lijie. IPI has been working on an extravagant casino resort on Saipan since 2016, but the progress has stalled, leading to labor infringements, legal disputes, and federal bribery allegations. IPI’s financial situation has now reached a point where it owes over $100 million to the Commonwealth Casino Commission (CCC) in regulatory and licensing fees.
Allegations of Criminal Activity
On November 24, the Beijing Municipal First Intermediate People’s Court accused Ji of various criminal acts, including employing violence and coercion to recover unlawful gambling debts. Singapore’s 8World News reported that the court handed prison sentences ranging from eight years and six months to one year and eight months to 15 members of Ji’s enterprise. The most severe sentence was given to Cui Limei, Ji’s aunt and Cui Lijie’s sister.
The charges are linked to Ji’s management of the Hengsheng Group, a Macau junket business that started in 2011 and expanded significantly by 2013, operating VIP rooms and numerous tables, according to The Macao News.
The court also found that between 2008 and 2021, the organization frequently opened overseas casinos to “obtain illegal benefits.”
It is believed that Ji transferred his focus to Saipan after Chinese authorities clamped down on Macau’s junket sector in 2014. In that same year, IPI secured the exclusive casino license for Saipan, granting them a 40-year monopoly on the island. Nevertheless, the license was put on hold indefinitely by the Northern Mariana Islands’ Supreme Court in April 2021 due to IPI’s failure to pay the annual license fee.
Ji, who has not been seen publicly for two years or more, is being pursued by Chinese law enforcement. Asian Gaming Brief reported rumors that he might be hiding in Tokyo.
The former junket operator drew media attention due to his relationship with Taiwanese actor Pace Wu. The couple gained notoriety for flaunting their wealth, including the installation of two crystal dragons in their home, allegedly worth US$130 million.
Ji is the latest junket magnate to face criminal indictments, following the convictions in Macau of prominent operators Alvin Chau of the Suncity Group and Levo Chan of Tak Chun Group. Chau was sentenced to 18 years in prison for illegal gambling and criminal association, while Chan received a 14-year prison term in April due to similar charges.