Top Macau hotelier accused of running prostitution ring

Trial of Alan Ho follows raid a year ago on casino hotel in the former Portuguese colony

Alan Ho, the nephew of gambling supremo Stanley Ho, has gone on trial in Macau charged with running a casino-linked prostitution ring that involved 2,400 sex workers and took in an alleged €46 million over two years.

A syndicate was busted exactly a year ago at the Hotel Lisboa, which is attached to the Lisboa casino, where police detained 96 suspected prostitutes and arrested six people.

The alleged ring was suspected to have controlled 100 rooms in the Hotel Lisboa since 2013 and the suspects allegedly made over 400 million patacas (€46 million) over two years, collected from around 2,400 sex workers.

The prostitutes were allegedly each forced to pay the ring an “entrance fee” of 150,000 yuan (€21,000) a year to work the hotel.


Mr Ho is accused of founding and leading a criminal organisation. In addition he faces 90 charges of sexual exploitation.

Prostitution is not illegal in Macau as long as the person selling sexual services does so in a private place, but pimping carries up to eight years in jail, and promoting or establishing a criminal organisation can mean five to 12 years in prison. Syndicate leaders can get eight to 15 years imprisonment.

Mr Ho denies the charges against him and exercised his right to remain silent during the proceedings. His lawyer, Jorge Neto Valente, said his client was innocent and was never involved in a criminal organisation exploiting prostitutes.

Mr Valente said his client had made accommodation contracts in the hotel with women who engaged in prostitution, and that he could not be held accountable for others’ actions, according to local media.

The scheme was allegedly called YSL – “young single ladies” – and the court heard how there was a “check-in” counter for sex workers and that the fifth and sixth floors of the hotel were exclusively occupied by prostitutes.

Another defendant, Qiao Yan Yan, assistant deputy manager of the Lisboa, testified that Mr Ho and two other defendants were in charge of choosing the women placed on the fifth and sixth floors.

Ms Qiao, who said she had previously provided sexual services at the hotel, testified that part of her job was making sure prostitutes followed hotel rules, such as not approaching potential clients and not circulating repeatedly in the halls of the hotel.

Stanley Ho is responsible for starting the process of transforming Macau into the gaming centre of the world and for many years the Lisboa casino was at the heart of gaming in the former Portuguese colony. Macau now has multiple times more gaming revenue than Las Vegas and the Nevada giants have moved in, but Stanley Ho remains a major player in Macau.

Gaming revenue has fallen for 18 months in a row in Macau but the territory is trying to reinvent itself as a resort for general, high-end tourism.

The trial is taking place at the Court of First Instance in Macau and continues on Friday.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing