HONG KONG – A Macau lawyer assaulted in broad daylight in the Chinese gambling haven said Monday the attack was an attempt to intimidate him.
Jorge Menezes said the two assailants used bricks to bash him on the head before fleeing in last week’s attack, which recalled the former Portuguese colony’s shady past when Chinese organized crime gangs known as “triads” fought for control of lucrative casino VIP rooms. Macau largely shed its reputation for triad violence as it grew into the world’s biggest gambling market.
Menezes said he believed the attack was an “act of intimidation” related to his legal work, which involves criminal and civil cases, but he wouldn’t say who he thought was behind it.
Macau was rocked by gangland killings in the run-up to its handover to China in 1999 but violence abated as new authorities took control, allowing the gambling industry to boom and foreigners to open casinos.
Authorities are eager to develop the city as a family-friendly travel and entertainment destination and diversify the economy away from its reliance on gambling revenues, which rose to $38 million last year.
Macau, an hour from Hong Kong by high-speed hydrofoil ferry, is a key market for foreign casino operators such as Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International, which are investing heavily in new casino resorts.
Menezes said the attack occurred while he was walking his five-year-old son to school on Thursday morning. He said one assailant hit him with a brick on the back of the head. Another man, also armed with a brick, joined in, and they both tried to rain blows on his head.
The bricks his attackers were using were tied to their hands, Menezes said.
“That’s a technique that I was told is used by nasty people in mainland China,” said Menezes, who injured his arm fending off the blows and required stitches to his head. He reported the attack to police.
Paulo Coutinho, editor-in-chief of the Macau Daily Times, said the assault had the hallmarks of an unsophisticated “old-school” triad intimidation attack.
“It’s a clear sign for people to remember that organized crime in Macau is part of the deal,” he said.
Gang violence has become rare in Macau, although a few other recent flickers have unsettled residents. Last year, a longtime operator of VIP casino junkets, Ng Man-sun, was beaten by six men in his hotel in what was reportedly a dispute with his ex-lover over ownership of the property.
Also last year, two mainland Chinese men were found murdered in a hotel and a mainland Chinese woman was found dead in a residential neighbourhood.
The city also braced in December for the release of a notorious gangster known as Broken Tooth Koi after 15 years in prison, but fears of a wave of violence never materialized.
Among Menezes’ clients is Taiwanese-American businessman Marshall Hao, who is suing U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands for $375 million in a breach of contract dispute related to the company’s acquisition of its Macau casino license.
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