MACAU, China – A Macau triad boss known as “Broken Tooth” walked free from jail Saturday after more than 14 years behind bars for heading a gang blamed for a string of murders and bombings in the former Portuguese colony.
The release of Wan Kuok-koi has triggered tightened security in the world’s biggest gaming hub although experts say it is unlikely Macau will witness a return to the violence seen before the city returned to Chinese rule in 1999.
Wan, wearing a white T-shirt, walked out from a high-security prison and was collected by two men — one reported to be his brother — in a white car just before 7:00 am (2300 GMT Friday), an AFP photographer saw.
Now aged 57, he smiled but did not gesture to waiting journalists.
Wan was leader of the 14k triad, the largest organised crime outfit in Macau in the mid-1990s, and was jailed over offences linked to loan sharking, money laundering and triad activities.
At his trial, police said his gang had been involved in a string of murders, bombings, drive-by shootings and kidnappings that plagued the colony in the run-up to the handover to Chinese rule.
He stood trial with nine other gang members facing a raft of charges, among them membership of a triad society, illicit gambling, extortion, drug trafficking, smuggling and illegal possession of firearms.
His release has rekindled memories of Macau’s darker days, but a lawyer representing Wan, said he intends to lead a quiet life.
“The only thing he wants is for people to forget him,” Pedro Leal told the South China Morning Post.
“In recent weeks he’s been on the cover of many magazines and they’ve all talked about his past. All he wants is to be left in peace. He’s going to lead a quiet life from now on,” the lawyer said.
During Wan’s time in prison, Macau has been transformed into the world’s top gaming destination after the casino sector that was once monopolised by tycoon Stanley Ho was opened up to foreign competition in 2002.
The semi-autonomous territory, the only place in China where casino gambling is legal, now earns five times the gaming revenue of Las Vegas.
Six firms are licenced to operate casinos in Macau. — Agence France-Presse