China frees top Crown executive jailed for gambling offences: official


SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – China on Saturday freed one of the last remaining Crown Resorts Ltd executives jailed for illegally promoting gambling, as a protracted saga that forced the Australian casino operator to cancel global expansion plans and hurt profits nears an end.

Jason O’Connor, head of international VIP gambling with the casino giant, was released before 7 a.m., an official told media outside the detention center in Shanghai.

The Australian was the most senior of 16 staff detained in October and jailed by a Shanghai court in June. His 10-month sentence ran from the time of his first detention on Oct. 14 last year.

Reuters was not able to confirm his release with his family or the Australian government.

O’Connor was taken immediately to the airport and left the country, the Australian Financial Review newspaper said, without citing sources.

The authorities released ten employees, including Australian nationals Jerry Xuan and Jane Pan Dan, in July. Crown, half-owned by billionaire James Packer, had been trying to attract wealthy Chinese to its casinos located outside China, where gambling is illegal, except for Macao. But the case prompted Crown, the world’s biggest listed casino company outside China, to retreat from global expansion plans and sell off its Macao assets, and instead shift its focus back home.

Reporting by Xihao Jiang in SHANGHAI, Shu Zhang and Josephine Mason in BEIJING; additional reporting by Ben Cooper in SYDNEY; writing by Josephine Mason

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