Wan Kuok-koi, also known as "Broken Tooth Koi," is scheduled to walk free from Coloane Prison sometime between midnight Friday and noon Saturday after serving most of a 15-year sentence, the Macau government said.
Wan was convicted of loan sharking, money laundering and being a gang leader in November 1999, a month before Portugal handed control of Macau back to Beijing. As head of Macau's 14K triad, Wan waged a brutal war with rival triads, or organized crime gangs, for dominance of the lucrative VIP rooms in Macau's casinos.
According to news reports in Macau and nearby Hong Kong, authorities have been preparing for his release by warning hotels and casinos to tighten security. Officials, including one from Beijing's liaison office with Macau, have also warned Wan to behave after his release, the reports said.
The measures are a response to fears that Wan's release would be followed by a return to the pre-handover gang violence that rocked Macau and claimed dozens of lives, including 37 in 1999 alone. Some worry he'll try to get involved again with junkets, which arrange for wealthy mainly Chinese gamblers to come to Macau, lend them money and make big profits by collecting on debts.
But analysts say that when Wan leaves prison, he'll likely find he has lost much of his power and influence following Macau's decade-long transformation from a seedy and corrupt crime-ridden backwater into the world's top gambling market.
Macau's decision to end a four-decade casino monopoly in 2002 opened the way for foreign operators to modernize the industry. Las Vegas Sands Corp., MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts Ltd. have all opened glitzy resorts. Macau raked in $33.5 billion gambling revenue last year, more than five times the amount earned on the Las Vegas Strip.
"Wan Kuok-Koi is yesterday's man," said Steve Vickers, a former head of intelligence at Hong Kong's police force who is now chief executive of business intelligence and risk consultancy SVA. "Whilst he remains connected with his previous gang members, there is just no room for the wild bunch in Macau anymore. He will be neutralized should he create trouble."