Macau’s US casino operators may have dodged a bullet after six Iranian nationals were apprehended trying to enter the special administrative region using fake passports.
On Tuesday (7 Jan 2019), local media reported that Macau’s Public Security Police Force (PSP) had detained six Iranian nationals who arrived on three different flights from Beijing and Kuala Lumpur over a 24-hour period this weekend. All six were carrying fake passports made to look like they were issued by the governments of Sweden, Spain, Italy and Israel.
The Iranians — four men and two women aged 24-34 years who claimed not to know each other — also claimed that they’d each paid between €8k and €9k for the passports from so-called ‘agents’. When asked for the names of these agents, all six Iranians reportedly provided different names.
The Iranians claimed their eventual destination was Europe, although none of them could say which countries they were headed for and none of them had tickets booked for a third destination when they arrived in Macau.
While this may well turn out to be a simple case of human smuggling, Macau’s three US-based casino operators – Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts – were likely already on edge for potential blowback from the US government’s recent assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
Four years ago this month, Hong Kong-based risk consultancy Steve Vickers and Associates Ltd said Islamic terrorists could view the “nexus of Chinese, American and Jewish interests in [Macau’s] gaming sector” as a tempting target. And with Iran vowing to exact “harsh revenge” for Soleimani’s killing — and claiming to have already identified 13 potential “revenge scenarios” — Macau’s US operators can’t afford to take any threat lightly.
In 2018, Vickers claimed he’d been “well and truly pilloried” for raising the terror issue but, just seven months after his initial report, Indonesian authorities arrested six individuals affiliated with an ISIS-linked group who were allegedly planning a rocket attack on the Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore.
There’s also the small matter that Iran has a history of tangling with Sands’ mercurial owner Sheldon Adelson, who in 2013 suggested that the US military drop a nuclear weapon in the Iranian desert as a warning to the mullahs to give up their own nuclear ambitions.