SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China released 10 employees of Australian casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd on Wednesday, the first of 16 who were detained in October and sentenced in June for illegally promoting gambling.
Nineteen employees were detained as Crown was trying to attract high-spending Chinese to its casinos outside of China, where gambling is illegal except in the territory of Macau. A court jailed 16 of the employees including three Australians for nine to 10 months, back-dated to their October detention.
The incident prompted Crown to shift focus to its home market. It had been a shareholder of Macau-focused Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd but sold its remaining stake for $1.16 billion in May.
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On Wednesday, four employees, including Australian nationals Jerry Xuan and Jane Pan Dan, emerged from a Shanghai detention facility accompanied by family members and security officials, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene. They left immediately in cars without speaking to media.
Another six were released from a second facility in the city, said a man who identified himself as a lawyer for the families and who declined to give his name.
A relative of one defendant who was released told Reuters on condition of anonymity that "everything went OK."
"We want to see what the company does next ... and how it treats those involved," the relative said.
Crown's head of international VIP gambling, Jason O'Connor, would be released on Aug. 12 along with three other employees, the relative said citing a court copy of the verdict.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that two Australians were released on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Winni Zhou and Adam Jourdan; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Christopher Cushing)