* Drug dealers spent $20million(nz) on pokies to launder drug cash.
Two of the biggest drug dealers in Auckland spent nearly $20 million at SkyCity, while using the casino as an office to plan “P” (meth) deals. By spending so much money at the casino, Tac Kin Voong and Ri Tong Zhou were able to "wash" the profits of their multimillion-dollar drug rings by laundering the cash through the pokie machines.
The rival drug syndicate leaders Voong and Zhou were seen rubbing shoulders in the VIP room and would sell methamphetamine to each other when drug supply was low. Both Asian underworld figures were targets of separate police investigations in 2006, which eventually crossed over when the pair began dealing to each other through their lieutenants.
Zhou was jailed for 15 years in March 2009 as the ringleader in Operation Manu after admitting more than 30 methamphetamine-related charges, including the supply of $3 million worth of “P” in two months.
Voong was last week convicted in the High Court at Auckland with four others. It can now be reported that Voong and Zhou had sold “P” (meth) to each other for some time through lieutenants, with Voong supplying 140 grams to Zhou on one occasion. That amount of drug would have a street value of $140,000.
Under covert surveillance by police, Zhou and Voong were seen together in the VIP lounge and SkyCity and caught on camera passing each other.
The Herald can also reveal that Zhou and Voong spent millions of dollars on the pokie machines at SkyCity Casino. Nicknamed Mr Casino, Voong lived in the SkyCity hotel and spent at least $11 million at the casino, Zhou around $8 million, in six months.
An unemployed painter, Voong denied to police being a drug dealer but explained his success as a gambler and admitted to loan sharking.
"He was so successful, apparently, that he was able to employ other persons to play the slot machines on his behalf," Crown prosecutor Mina Wharepouri told the court. "And that through this method, he had won a number of jackpots. "Consequently, he enjoyed a lifestyle much like that of a high roller."
While under surveillance by police for months, Voong and Zhou spent most of their time in the casino where they would speak on the phone to suppliers and dealers and arrange meetings for cash and drugs to be exchanged. This was done sometimes inside the casino.
Sending Zhou to prison for 15 years in March last year, Justice Rhys Harrison said that Zhou had used the casino as "offices" and noted that anti-gambling lobbyists had warned that the casino could become a "scene for large-scale criminal activity or a meeting place for people who commit serious crimes".
The senior judge then took the unusual step of ordering that his sentencing notes be sent to SkyCity. In response, SkyCity general counsel Peter Treacy said the casino did not tolerate any type of criminal or undesirable behaviour. He said SkyCity had a strong relationship with the police and the Department of Internal Affairs, particularly in sharing surveillance footage and information to identity any criminal activity.
"While no system is completely foolproof, we pride ourselves in our approach and commitment to making the casino a safe environment for our customers," said Mr Treacy. "If the public are aware of illegal or undesirable behaviour in our casinos, we would strongly encourage them to contact us or the police."
Mike Hill, Department of Internal Affairs gambling compliance manager, said SkyCity had learned a "hard lesson" from Voong and Zhou. He said the casino had been working more closely with the department and police in sharing surveillance and intelligence. "We have been working quite closely with SkyCity since that time and expectations have been raised, standards have been raised over that time," said Mr Hill. "That doesn't mean to say that this could never happen again, but we would hope it would come to our attention a lot earlier."
By Jared Savage
The New Zealand Hearld 17/ 05/2010