The ongoing inquiry into Australia’s Star Entertainment and its casino operations isn’t doing anything to help the company’s standing. Two company executives confirmed this week that a number of shady deals have taken place over the years.
Star Entertainment painted itself into a corner and it now has no way out. The Australian casino operator and its The Star casino in New South Wales (NSW) are the subjects of an ongoing inquiry in the state that continues to uncover failings. At the rate it’s going, the company is going to end up in the same position as Crown Resorts, unable to hold a license in the state.
There were already accusations of money laundering and other shady deals that executives confirmed during the inquiry. This week, however, new revelations are causing additional grief.
During today’s hearing, according to WAToday, it was revealed that Star previously lent money to Sixin Qin. Despite a due diligence investigation highlighting the junket investor as a known loan shark and “swindler,” Star still gave him AU$166 million (US$117.47 million). The due diligence report is from January 2020, but did little to sway Star’s interaction with him.
More Strikes Against Star
Greg Hawkins, The Star’s NSW chief casino officer, told the inquiry today that he never saw the due diligence report. This is despite the fact that he was responsible for the casino’s international affairs. He was also unable to say who ordered the report.
Qin’s status was never recorded in Star’s tracking database, a system the company used to monitor all potential money-laundering questions and persons. Hawkins had no answer when he was asked to explain why the information was not entered.
Regarding the multimillion-dollar loan, which Qin received a month before the due diligence report, Hawkins wasn’t sure why he received it or who had authorized it. He could only tell the inquiry that he assumed that the transaction adhered to the proper channel checks at the time.
Qin, who authorities suspected of running illegal gambling websites, continued his relationship with Star. At the same time, the information – intentionally or otherwise – was buried. It isn’t clear from the testimony if he ever repaid the loan.
Star Didn’t Learn from Previous Mistakes
Although Star has been in the crosshairs of gaming and financial regulators since last year, this didn’t stop the company from continuing to conduct questionable activity. Even as Crown’s world was coming down around it, Star executives couldn’t take the hint.
WAToday reports that Qin was still working with Qin as recently as this past February. Skye Arnott, the chief financial crimes officer for The Star in NSW, approved the ongoing relationship. This was in spite of a state ban on junkets because of the Crown saga.
The Star also had a cozy relationship with Chinese billionaire VIP gambler Phillip Dong Fang Lee. He visited the casino for more than three years, using a China Union Pay (CUP) card on his trips.
However, even after casino personnel pointed out that that there was something suspicious going on, the practice continued. Lee was also using the CUP card for gambling purposes. This is a violation of the card’s terms and conditions – a fact Star executives knew.
Lee withdrew at least AU$70 million (US$49.55 million) in 2015 and 2016. This, combined with Star’s other questionable junket dealings, leaves NSW authorities believing the casino was nothing more than “one big fat ATM machine.”
The inquiry is still active and, by the looks of things, isn’t going to end quickly. NSW already asked for more time to wrap things up, and the severity of the issues appears to be more overwhelming than initially thought.
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