independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Former gangster released from jail

Macau crime boss Wan Kuok-koi, known as Broken Tooth Koi, walks out of Coloane Prison (AP)

The Macau crime boss known as Broken Tooth Koi, who was released from prison after serving nearly 15 years, will hardly recognise the city he terrorised in the late 1990s with a brutal gangland war.

Wan Kuok-koi was convicted of loan sharking, money laundering and being a gang leader in November 1999, a month before Portugal handed control of Macau, its colony for more than four centuries, back to Beijing and long before the sleepy enclave welcomed international operators to build the modern resorts that have made it a gambling mecca.

As head of Macau's 14K triad, Wan waged a brutal war with rival triads, or organised crime gangs, for dominance of the lucrative VIP rooms in Macau's casinos.

He was arrested shortly after a bomb destroyed the car of Macau's director of investigative police, who was out jogging when the vehicle exploded and was unscathed by the assassination attempt.

Wan walked out of Coloane Prison at dawn, flashed a faint smile and refused to answer questions from reporters before speeding away in a white Lexus.

According to news reports in Macau and nearby Hong Kong, authorities have been preparing for his release by warning hotels and casinos to tighten security and plan to keep a close eye on him after he gets out.

Officials including one from Beijing's liaison office with Macau have also warned Wan, now in his late 50s, to behave after his release, the reports said.

The measures are a response to fears that Wan's release would be followed by a return to the pre-handover gang violence that rocked Macau and claimed dozens of lives, including 37 in 1999 alone.

Some worry he will try to get involved again with junkets, which arrange for wealthy mainly Chinese gamblers to come to Macau, lend them money and make big profits by collecting on debts.

But analysts say upon his return to society, he will likely find he has lost much of his power and influence following Macau's decade-long transformation from a seedy and corrupt crime-ridden backwater into the world's top gambling market.

Press Association

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