Macau’s Underworld

Wan Kuok-koi, one of the most feared crime bosses in the history of Asia, is set to be released from prison in December and some locals wonder if his old stomping grounds, Macau, will become as violent as it was when Wan was in his prime.

Known by his nickname Broken Tooth, Wan is serving 14 years and seven months as the “enforcer” of the dreaded 14K triad, the largest criminal organization in Macau when it was still part of Portugal.

Some local media are reporting that Wan is out for revenge once he’s released, but others are saying that the situation has changed drastically since he was put away.

The main change isn’t so much that Hong Kong and Macau have since come under Chinese rule, but that the gambling scenes which the triads lorded over is now legitimate and raking in huge amounts of money.

When Broken Tooth ruled, gambling was rampant but nevertheless conducted underground and in back rooms.
With lots of foreign money supporting the casino and resort sector, the local police have more of an incentive to crack down on triad activity.

Macau and the gambling industry is still permeated with organized crime, but there is virtually no violence any more.

Triads still control the lucrative junket business, which brings high rollers from the mainland to Macau for expensive gambling vacations, providing everything from call girls to money transfers.

Illegal currency movement is said to be integral to Macau’s sudden status as the gambling capital of the world.

It is against the law for anyone to move more than $5,000 a day from the mainland into Macau. Basically, the triads are still around and each has carved out its own turf in respective casinos, but they aren’t killing one another any more.

“The pie,” as one former lawmaker told Jiji Press, “is big enough to be shared.”