5 Decourey Court is as unassuming as a giant mansion could be. Situated in the well-to-do suburb of Markham, Ontario, the high walls and fancy wrought iron gates concealed a scandalous secret that would rock the local community to its core.
The 20 000 square foot property became the subject of police investigation earlier in 2020 after suspicions surfaced that the opulent estate was an exclusive, underground casino with several other apparent criminal side-ventures operating from the same venue.
The York regional police had been looking into the owner of the house, the 52-year-old politically connected real estate developer, Wei Wei and his wife, Xing Yue Chen, for quite some time. In a dramatic climax to “Operation Endgame”, their chosen name for the case they formed against the Chinese national, a police raid was carried out at the property on July 30.
The raid uncovered a laundry list of criminal transgressions and a collection of cash, guns, and some items that bordered on the bizarre.
The home contained a casino, a spa, a wine cellar, and a restaurant in addition to rooms where guests would sleep after getting their gambling fix. According to police, the operation had been running since 2019, and their investigation into the goings-on at the 53-bedroom property had been part of a wider initiative to identify and shut down a network of underground casinos that was found to be operating in the city.
Law enforcement reports indicate that the casino was fully operational with Baccarat and Mahjong tables with some slot machines thrown in for good measure. The contents of the cash bar on site, valued at over $1.5 million was seized in addition to $1 million in cash, and several firearms including an AR-15 rifle and a 50-calibre Desert Eagle pistol. A taxidermized polar bear was also removed from the front hall of the house. Yeah. Don’t ask.
Wei, his wife, his daughter, and 15 other accomplices were arrested as a result of the startling discoveries and charged with over a dozen crimes, including keeping a common gaming/betting house and firearms offences. More disturbing details about the couple’s shadowy life soon emerged.
Wei Wei and his wife purchased the property in 2015 for $4.7 million and began renovating it about 2 years later to transform it into an invite-only gambling house for the rich, which is currently appraised at a value of $9 million.
The picture that gradually emerged of the businessman was one of a shrewd, well-connected socialite who had rubbed shoulders with the likes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on more than one occasion, initially at the behest of an arm of the Chinese government. He notably made a large, $1 million donation to the politician’s foundation.
Wei reportedly used his status with the Chinese government to gain access to the social circles of the wealthy and influential which may have aided in constructing his criminal enterprise.
The police investigation was conducted by infiltrating and uprooting several, smaller underground casinos in the district, working their way up to Wei’s mansion, known as “Mackenzie No. 5 Club ”, among clandestine gambling circles. The venue was likely doing brisk business as Ontario’s legal casino operations were, at the time, forced to shut down due to a government-imposed lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the course of their investigation the police discovered other criminal activities, such as drug distribution at the unlawful operations
York Regional Police Superintendent Michael Slack held a media press conference at the gates of the mansion and laid out the scope of the operation that had finally brought the criminal operation to its knees. “To get into this location and many of the locations we investigated, you have to be invited in. So, often, smaller-scale illegal casinos are where those initial contacts are made. And through those contacts, the invite then happens afterwards.”
Supt Slack also commented on the relative state of Wei’s illegitimate casino in comparison to some of the smaller ones that they had taken down.
“Although this location is extravagant and is clearly where the privileged were invited to play, some of the other fortified locations where we searched were in a condition where they could be condemned. And instead of providing high-end scotch and wine, gamblers are given methamphetamines and other drugs to keep them awake and gambling. We will continue to double down on our efforts to disrupt these operations, and curb the violence that follows,” Slack said.
While Wei Wei’s future is uncertain, details about his past involvement in seemingly shady diplomatic dealings mean that any effort to effectively prosecute him may take place in a politically charged atmosphere and possibly have unknown consequences for the Canada-China relationship.