Lawyer admits payments cage could breach Star license, inquest finds


Collapsing on the witness stand on Thursday, Mr White said he should have ‘done more or tried harder to maintain the position that there should have been no cash transaction by Suncity in the 95″ Lounge, Suncity’s exclusive VIP room at The Star’s Pyrmont Casino.

This follows shocking evidence last week that The Star illegally allowed Suncity to operate a payout cage in the junket’s private VIP gaming room at its Sydney location and ‘knowingly misled’ the regulator over its existence.

The inquest saw video evidence of various alleged instances of money laundering in Lounge 95, such as a man depositing ‘wads of cash’ for processing and exchanging gambling chips for stored money in brown paper bags in 2018.

“Felt pressure”

Solicitor assisting the inquest, Naomi Sharp SC, asked if Mr White had made his views known to his colleagues, to which Mr White said he was ‘sure he had discussed it’ but “didn’t escalate it enough as a kind of ‘super concern’.”

“I thought senior management was aware of the concerns about conduct in Salon 95,” Mr White said.

Mrs. Sharp: “What stopped you from doing more at the time?”

Mr White: “In a way, I felt I had done what I could in terms of escalating to senior members of the legal team who were also aware of this.”

He said he “definitely” felt pressure from elsewhere in “the business to continue to operate the till despite the concerning transactions in Salon 95”, but could not think of a “specific person”.

The “worrying transactions” linked to a series of incidents within Salon 95 that Skye Arnott, Star’s top financial crimes official, admitted to the investigation on Tuesday were potentially “indicators of money laundering”.

This concern was reported to the Audit and Risk Committee, but the Financial Crimes Officer did not inform the Board of Directors.

Mr White had advised in 2018 that there should be no cash transactions at Suncity Salon 95 because ‘among other things … it could be that they engage in casino operations’ while The Star is the only “person authorized to do so”.

Under the NSW Casino Control Act, any group other than the licensee of the casino is prohibited from operating a cage, where money is exchanged for chips.

Adam Bell SC asked at the end of the hearing: “Did you feel at the time that there was a culture where business objectives took precedence over compliance?”

“It’s something I’ve reflected on…I feel like it’s been the case from time to time, particularly in a range of areas that we touched on in our discussions.”

Star CEO Matt Bekier resigned last Monday after the inquiry heard evidence alleging he became ‘hostile’ during a meeting with outside consultants called in to discuss their report detailing the company’s poor compliance. casino in the fight against money laundering.

“Simply Wrong”

Mr. White was also forced to explain another payment system developed by The Star’s legal team that facilitated $900 million in CUP transactions by disguising them as payments to its hospitality arm to circumvent CUP rules. which prohibited games of chance on cards.

The payment system is known for helping users avoid anti-money laundering regulations and Chinese currency controls imposed by Beijing to stop capital flight.

Mr White finally admitted that the China Union Pay program was “misleading”, but he did not accept that the CUP ban on gambling transactions applied, due to the “two-step process” in which cards were swiped at the Star’s hotel rather than on the gaming floor, although patrons then received casino chips equal to the value of the transaction.

“You were knowingly involved in a chain of documents that obscured the true purpose of the CUP transactions,” Ms. Sharp asked.

He refused to accept that the purpose of the scheme was to conceal that the funds would be used for gambling, to which Ms Sharp replied: ‘Your answer is now simply wrong’

He finally agreed “it’s probably true” that his response to NAB was “misleading[ing] as to the true purpose to which the syndicate pays for transactions” and he “walked a very fine line between what was true and what was false”.

“I wouldn’t say it was a half-truth…it was phrased in a way that was unclear and misleading,” he said, eventually conceding “it’s not an answer that we should have sent” to the NAB.

Mr White also said he ‘never thought’ of the possibility that CUP transactions could be used to launder dirty money, telling the inquiry ‘that was not in my business of responsibility”.

On Wednesday, Mr White told the inquest he had informed outgoing Star CEO Matt Bekier that a high roller frequenting his Sydney casino would be investigated by federal police for money laundering. money and said The Star allowed the person to play anyway.

Mr White said he informed Mr Bekier that the customer, who has not been identified, had received a $100,000 advance to the Star through its China UnionPay (CUP) program and was currently flying to the Sydney casino.

He said he informed Mr. Bekier of the money laundering and reputational risk associated with the patron and CUP, but said the CEO “is of the opinion” that if the relatively small buy-in of $100,000 high roller was probably not worth the reputational risk,” the person should be allowed to play anyway because they were already on their way.

Featured staff attracted players

The inquest also heard that the Star had a marketing team based in China to attract mainland citizens to its casino, but stopped after Crown staff were arrested in 2016. Mr White said stated that they were supposed to market “non-gaming” activities. He could not explain why The Star did not seek outside legal advice on the legality of its operations until 2017.

The investigation is continuing.


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