BIZ BUZZ: Dark clouds over Suncity | Inquirer Business
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BIZ BUZZ: Dark clouds over Suncity

/ 04:03 AM November 29, 2021

The head of Suncity Group, the world’s largest casino junket operator, has been detained by authorities in Macau for “hampering the social order” of China through his firm’s cross border gambling operations, Biz Buzz learned from a reliable source over the weekend.

According to the source, Alvin Chau, a.k.a. Chau Cheok Wa, was arrested for “establishing a casino” by setting up gambling operations overseas catering to Chinese citizens in violation of government prohibitions.

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So why is this relevant to the Philippines? Well, Suncity is also under investigation by the Philippines’ gaming regulator after receiving complaints that it failed to return hundreds of millions of pesos of clients’ deposits since the start of the pandemic.

The source told Biz Buzz that Chau was arrested at 3 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 27, in the former Portuguese colony, which is also the base of operations of Suncity.

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His arrest came shortly after officials in China’s Zheijiang province issued an arrest warrant for him for these very same alleged violations, according to gaming industry news website GGR Asia.

The probe of Chau’s activities began in the middle of last year, which was around the same time the company’s troubles in the Philippines began amid allegations of its inability to return clients’ deposits after the outbreak of the pandemic.

In particular, a group of 49 casino junket players earlier this year asked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to sanction Suncity for its alleged refusal to allow them to withdraw hundreds of millions of pesos in advance placements despite repeated requests.

Soon after, lawyers representing Suncity Group Manila Inc. informed Pagcor that they were already readying cash and properties to reimburse the aggrieved junket players.

Biz Buzz checked with one of the complainants, who said his money had not yet been returned, despite this assurance.

Well, we hope everyone gets their money back, but pending that, the satisfaction of seeing Chinese justice meted out will have to do for now.

—Daxim L. Lucas

S&R data breach

The mid-November data breach at S&R Membership Shopping, a unit of Puregold Price Club, could not have come at a worse time. It happened on the heels of public concerns over scammers using the country’s mobile telecom and payments infrastructure to victimize consumers.

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This prompted some uncomfortable questions to be asked.

Why did S&R notify the National Privacy Commission (NPC) only on Nov. 15 when the security breach had been discovered on Nov. 14? Why was the public notification made only on Nov. 24, over a week after the incident? And why didn’t publicly listed parent firm Puregold disclose the data breach to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), whose main stock barometer it’s part of.

When we asked S&R about these issues, the management said the retailer had remained compliant by fully coordinating with the NPC immediately after the discovery of the cyberattack.

“The company requested the regulatory body to extend the 72-hour requirement to determine actual data that have been compromised,” the company replied.

Data on date of birth, contact number and gender were among the information that had been compromised. Thankfully, hackers didn’t get hold of credit card and other financial information, according to S&R.

“S&R immediately notified the 22,000 affected customers as soon as they were identified as a result of the company’s IT team investigation,” the company said, implying this was issued ahead of the Nov. 24 public announcement.

As to the lack of disclosure, we gather from a well-placed PSE source that events like this do not automatically trigger disclosures. “The issuer will have to assess the materiality on this matter,” the source said.

In this case, the S&R camp is of the belief that it’s not a material event, as the affected customers constituted less than 1 percent of the total base and business operations had not been disrupted.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla INQ

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TAGS: Biz Buzz, Business, Suncity
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