SYDNEY, AAP – A top lawyer at Star Entertainment has rejected claims the gambling giant was “completely hopeless” on managing risks linked to a notorious Macau-based junket operator allegedly involved with Asian crime gangs.
The NSW gaming regulator inquiry into The Star Sydney is probing whether the Sydney casino has been infiltrated by criminal activity, and if its casino licence should be withdrawn, following damning media reports.
Star group general counsel Andrew Power was quizzed on Monday about why the gaming operator continued dealing with junket operator Suncity after it became aware, via an internal report, of the group’s alleged links to organised crime.
The inquiry was told Mr Power was presented in October 2020 with a report from Star’s due diligence officer containing “four important strands of information” related to Suncity, including the alleged “triad antecedents” of its backer Alvin Chau.
The report also referred to The Star missing, from 2013 until 2020, that Mr Chau was a “politically exposed person” due to his membership of the Quandong Provincial Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s political advisory body.
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“Isn’t it right that the only appropriate decision given at this point in time you were the AML (anti-money laundering) CTF (counter terrorism financing) compliance officer was to exclude Alvin Chau from dealing with The Star?” counsel assisting Naomi Sharp asked.
“I don’t agree,” Mr Power replied.
The barrister then put to him: “Today the regulator can have absolutely no confidence in your judgements as to who is and who is not a suitable person for The Star to have business dealings with or to have as a patron.”
“I don’t think that’s fair,” the witness replied.
The inquiry was told Mr Power later provided a “marked up” version of the report to the casino’s due diligence officer that removed criticisms of the way The Star dealt with Suncity and Mr Chau in order to “sanitise” the document.
It was told that in the revised version there was no reference of “significant” money laundering concerns held by The Star in mid-2019 about Suncity and Salon 95.
Asked whether he conspired with casino managers to amend and sanitise the later version of the report, Mr Power said: “That’s not correct.”
However, he conceded that despite personally holding concerns about what happened in Salon 95 in 2019, by August 2021 there was no recommendation about whether it was suitable for The Star to deal with Mr Chau.
“That’s correct, we were yet to make that decision,” Mr Power said..
“I suggest that’s a completely hopeless risk management practice, do you agree?” the barrister then asked.
“I do not agree,” Mr Power replied.
No decision was made on whether to cease dealing with Suncity and Mr Chau until November 2021, the inquiry was told.
Quizzed over Star’s controversial deployment of China Union Pay cards for VIP patrons to purchase gambling chips, Mr Power denied knowing “sham documentation” was being created to facilitate the process.
The inquiry has previously been told gambling chips were purchased on CUP cards in breach of the Chinese financial services company’s rules, and were disguised as hotel accommodation charges.
Mr Power said he did not know of “dummy invoices” related to the cards, but conceded there was “a practice of dummy rooms being assigned”.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday.