Local media reported on Tuesday that six Iranian nationals had been detained by Macau’s Public Security Police Force (PSP) on three different flights from Beijing and Kuala Lumpur over a 24-hour period last weekend, after trying to enter the special administrative area. All six had fake passports made to look like they were issued by the Swedish, Spanish, Italian and Israeli governments.
The Iranians of which there were four men and two women aged 24-34 who claimed they didn’t know each other, also said they had paid between € 8k and € 9k each for so-called ‘agents’ passports. All six Iranians reportedly provided different names when asked for the names of these agents.
The Iranians claimed that their final destination was Europe, though when they arrived in Macau, none of them could think which countries they were supposed to be going to and none of them had booked flights for a third destination.
While this may well turn out to be a simple human smuggling case, Macau’s three U.S. casino operators –Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts–were probably already on the brink of potential blowback from the recent assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. government.
This month, four years ago, Hong Kong-based risk consultant Steve Vickers and Associates Ltd said Islamic terrorists could see the “nexus of Chinese, American and Jewish interests in[ Macau’s] gaming sector” as a tempting target. And with Iran vowing to exact “hard vengeance” for the killing of Soleimani— and claiming to have already established 13 possible “revenge scenarios,” U.S. operators in Macau can not afford to take lightly any threat.
In 2018, Vickers claimed that he had been “well and truly pilloried” for raising the terror issue but, a mere seven months after his initial report, Indonesian authorities arrested six people affiliated with an ISIS-linked group allegedly planning a rocket attack on Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands casino.
Following two separate gunmen attacks at casinos in Las Vegas and Manila, Macau authorities started conducting mock terror exercises at their gaming facilities in 2017. Since then, the drills have continued every year to gauge the capacity of the local authorities to thwart such an assault.
There is also the small matter that Iran has a history of tangling with the mercurial owner of Sands, Sheldon Adelson, who proposed in 2013 that the U.S. military drop a nuclear weapon in the Iranian desert as a warning to the mullahs to abandon their own nuclear ambitions.
Iranian hackers responded by infiltrating servers at Sands casinos, making off with customers ‘ credit card and banking information as well as detailed employee information, ultimately wreaking so much havoc that Sands later admitted it took $40 million to reverse the damage.