Macau launches facial recognition checks at ATMs

Semi-autonomous Macau has already taken steps to help stop cash flows from the mainland as Beijing seeks to curb capital flight due to a struggling yuan.

AFP| Updated: May 08, 2017, 16:37 PM IST

Macau: Casino hub Macau said Monday it would launch facial recognition and identity card checks on ATM users in what looks to be the latest move against illicit cash flows out of China.

The new rules will apply to holders of mainland-issued China UnionPay bank cards in an announcement that coincided with a three-day visit to the gambling enclave by top Chinese official Zhang Dejiang.

Semi-autonomous Macau has already taken steps to help stop cash flows from the mainland as Beijing seeks to curb capital flight due to a struggling yuan.

In December, Macau`s monetary authority announced it was limiting punters using the UnionPay system -- around half of those visiting the city from the mainland -- to 5,000 patacas (around $600) for each ATM withdrawal.

A statement from the Macau government`s press office announcing the new additional security checks said the government "will make every effort to implement Macau`s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism rules".

It did not say when the scheme would start.

Macau`s police also raided casinos, cafes, karaoke joints and bars in the days before Zhang`s visit, intercepting 790 people and rounding up 95 for further investigation, according to a police statement.

Those targeted by the investigation were "discovered to be involved" in illegal businesses and human trafficking among other activities, police said, without elaborating on what was meant by intercepted.

"The aim is to purify the environment in the community and do the best to maintain safety and stability in Macao," said the statement.

Macau is the only part of China where casino gambling is legal and a favourite haunt of mainland big spenders.

But since the launch of a corruption crackdown by China`s President Xi Jinping in 2012, some VIPs have stayed away, leading to plummeting gambling revenues.

However, annual takings are still three times larger than Las Vegas and have rebounded recently thanks to a push to woo tourists and mass market gamblers with a slew of new mega resorts.

Zhang said Monday he was visiting to encourage Macau, which he described as "facing an important stage in its transformation".

"The central government has unwavering support for Macau`s economic and societal development," he added.

Some observers say Beijing is keen to play up its support of Macau in a show of strength to Hong Kong, where the emergence of a pro-independence movement has infuriated Chinese authorities.