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Crown Resorts says China releases one of 18 detained casino employees

Beijing: One of 18 Crown Resorts employees detained a month ago in China has been released on bail, suggesting authorities have concluded their preliminary investigations and could soon move to formally arrest and then charge those remaining in custody.

Chinese national Jiang Ling, a Shanghai-based administrative employee for Crown, was released on bail on Thursday.


Australian Crown staff detained in China

Three Australians, including one senior executive, are among 18 employees to be detained. (Video courtesy ABC News 24)

Crown confirmed a “junior” Chinese employee had been freed on bail, but did not provide a name or other details. The gaming group declined to comment on whether it expected any of its other staff to be released or charged in the coming days.

Neither Ms Jiang, who also goes by the name Jenny, nor her husband, American expatriate Jeff Sikkema, could be reached over the weekend. In China, it is not uncommon for police to warn against making public comment about an ongoing investigation or trial as a condition of bail.

Mr Sikkema has argued that Ms Jiang’s responsibilities did not extend beyond organising Australian visas for Crown’s Chinese customers and that she was not involved in any sales or marketing.

The news of Ms Jiang’s bail was received with surprise by relatives of other detained employees, who have also been unable to contact the pair.

While glad for Ms Jiang, any elevated hopes of their own loved ones being bailed in similar circumstances were fading as the clock ticked down to the 37-day deadline next week, the maximum period Chinese police can hold criminal suspects without formal arrest, which almost always leads to charges being laid.

It is possible more employees could be released before then, but family members acknowledged it would have been more likely that police would release those it intended to at the same time.

Crown's Shanghai-based administration assistant Jiang "Jenny" Ling and her husband, American expatriate Jeff Sikkema.
Crown’s Shanghai-based administration assistant Jiang “Jenny” Ling and her husband, American expatriate Jeff Sikkema. Photo: Supplied

“There’s no news,” said one family member of another Chinese Crown employee who declined to be named.

“There’s not much we can do other than wait.”

Standard procedure dictates that police obtain approval from court prosecutors to formally arrest within 37 days of detention based on preliminary evidence. Further investigation will then be carried before charges are formally made and the case handed over for prosecution, a process that could drag on for months.

Three Australians are among the 17 Crown employees remaining in detention in China after a series of coordinated police raids on October 14 and 15.

They include Jason O’Connor, the head of Crown’s international VIP program, Jerry Xuan and Pan Dan. A fourth Australian, who is not a Crown employee and who has not been named, is understood to be among a number of “junket” operators who recommend gamblers to Crown detained in connection with the case.

At least some of the junket operators were also due for release, The Australian newspaper reported, including Chinese nationals Tian Di and Ou Hui, who is also known as Johnny. Both men are understood to have links to the Melbourne-based “China City” junket.

The Crown employees have been detained on suspicion of “gambling crimes”, and it is illegal to promote or organise gambling activities on the mainland. It also comes amid a broader anti-corruption blitz targeting money laundering and illicit money transfers offshore.

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