Adelson’s Singapore Casino hires a law firm to probe $ 1 billion in transfers

(Bloomberg) – Singapore’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. casino has hired a law firm to conduct a new investigation into employee transfers of more than $ 1 billion in gamblers’ money to third parties, according to people familiar with. the question.

Davinder Singh Chambers LLC, which specializes in dispute resolution and international arbitration, was named after Singapore police launched an investigation into third-party transfers at Marina Bay Sands Ltd., people said, who asked not to be identified by discussing private matters.

The review by one of Singapore’s best-known law firms adds to the control of the casino by the US Department of Justice and Singapore authorities after a patron sued the company last year claiming that S $ 9.1 million ($ 6.7 million) of his money was transferred to other gamblers without his knowledge. The lawsuit was settled out of court in June, with the casino agreeing to refund the full amount. There was a “non-admission” of responsibility on both sides.

Marina Bay Sands said in a statement that when issues were raised regarding the handling of client transfers, the company investigated the matter thoroughly and concluded that no client money was transferred contrary to the client’s intentions.

“MBS continues to work closely with its regulators to monitor MBS’s compliance with all legal obligations,” the casino said.

Las Vegas Sands fell 4.2% in New York, after plunging to 8.9%, the highest since March. Shares were down 25% this year at the close on Tuesday.

A representative of Davinder Singh Chambers declined to comment. The Singapore police force said it is inappropriate to comment while the investigation is ongoing.

The client lawsuit triggered a large number of authorities scrutinizing how Marina Bay Sands handled and monitored third-party transfers. Transactions, if authorized, are legal and used by groups of wealthy gamblers in Asia to pool their winnings and losses at different casinos.

Transfers are sometimes made through so-called junket operators, who provide transportation, hotel, and credit to high rollers. In Macau, junkets allow Chinese players to circumvent strict capital controls by pledging land-based assets in exchange for credit in casinos.

While junkets are generally more rigorously vetted in Singapore, a previous investigation by Marina Bay Sands and the law firm Hogan Lovells found cases of employees not complying with the appropriate standards by filling out payment details on pre-signed or photo-copied authorization forms. , according to people. It also uncovered instances where the original documents were destroyed, people said.

During the 2013-2017 review by Hogan Lovells, more than 3,000 letters of authorization were used to endorse transfers of funds from patrons to third parties worth approximately $ 1.4 billion, according to people.

Singapore’s Las Vegas Sands unit, among the most profitable in billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s gaming empire, called Hogan Lovells’ team specializing in corporate investigations and controversial regulatory issues after the Casino Regulatory Authority launched its investigation. following the 2019 lawsuit of patron Wang Xi.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Attorney’s Office interviewed a former Marina Bay Sands Chief of Compliance in July as part of the Justice Department’s investigation to see if anti-money laundering procedures had been violated in handling high rollers, they said. people who are familiar with the matter.

Of the transactions examined in Hogan Lovells’ review, letters authorizing transfers worth S $ 365 million from multiple users bore signatures that appeared to be similar, facilitating numerous transfers, one of the people said. A group of employees was involved in transfers of $ 763 million. That concentration in a handful of staff failed to attract the required attention, according to the person.

In response to a Bloomberg News investigation, the Casino Regulatory Authority said it has completed its investigation into allegations that Marina Bay Sands made unauthorized transfers from a user’s account. While the regulator concluded that the casino did not violate the requirements in that case – including those relating to anti-money laundering – “there were weaknesses in MBS’s casino control measures relating to transfers of funds,” he said in a statement. .

Close supervision

The regulator “took a serious view of these issues and had ordered MBS to strengthen its control measures, which MBS then took,” according to the statement. “CRA will continue to exercise close supervision to ensure that MBS measures are effective.”

Marina Bay Sands told the regulator that it tightened its vetting process in April 2018 to ensure players authorize any transfer of funds and that requests are approved by the casino’s compliance department, the person said. Employees also receive training to identify and report suspicious behavior and any unauthorized activity related to the junket.

Davinder Singh is known for representing Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a number of defamation cases, as well as many other high-profile banking, debt restructuring and fraud lawsuits. Hogan Lovells is known for his investigations and anti-corruption work.

(Updates with closing actions in the sixth paragraph)

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