The troubled Star Sydney Casino is in even deeper water after their own compliance manager admitted ‘knowingly misleading’ regulators about junket operations at the venue.
The Star Entertainment Group is battling to keep its Sydney licence amid an ongoing investigation, and their plans have been dealt a huge blow by their management’s admission of fraud.
The Star Sydney has long played host to a private high rollers room – Salon 95 – on the premises, and a slew of lurid allegations have brought the brand into disrepute….including one claim that a player from China was able to wager an astonishing $11 million in one day without any proof of funds checks being carried out.
The regulator in the state of New South Wales – the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority – has been investigating whether that private member’s club has played host to money laundering and other illegal activity.
Giving evidence at the hearing, Graeme Stevens – the compliance manager at the Star Entertainment Group – admitted that he hadn’t been wholly truthful with authorities in the past.
Stevens was interrogated about a planning application Star had submitted for Salon 95, which did not feature any mention of an interior window being installed to allow cash and chips to be exchanged between players and cashiers.
And he admitted that the submission did not mention the window, and when asked whether that was to mislead the regulator over payments made to the casino by a junket operator, he simply replied ‘yes’.
When it was put to Stevens that the aforementioned window was being used as an ‘unlawful cage’, he admitted that regulators should have been informed – and that Star Sydney had ‘very little control’ over what went on inside Salon 95.
There has been a significant attempt across Australia and parts of Asia to clamp down on the activities of junket operators, which bring high net worth individuals across borders to gamble at ‘soft’ casinos – with accusations of money laundering never far behind.
One such firm, the ill-fated Suncity, has also been named in Star Sydney’s proceedings. The Macau based firm, which has since ceased to operate following a separate criminal investigation into former CEO Alvin Chau, was found to have operated within Salon 95. And despite being told explicitly not to handle cash on the premises, one witness recalled seeing a Suncity limousine driver carrying bags full of money to the cashier’s window.
The NSW inquiry is also looking into the use of China Union Pay (CUP) as a go-between operator. The financial services outfit explicitly prohibits gambling transactions, but Star Sydney would allegedly allow players to use the payment system by disguising betting funds as ‘accommodation expenses’ on receipts. It has been claimed that nearly $1 billion in total has spent via CUP inside the casino.
Star employees have since admitted to fraud in relation to those payments after the National Australia Bank intervened on China Union Pay’s behalf to question why such extraordinary sums of money were being transacted in the casino.