Las Vegas Sands’ Singapore casino, Marina Bay Sands, has tapped a law firm to conduct a new probe into employee transfers of over $1 billion in patrons’ money to third parties.
Marina Bay Sands is understood to have hired Davinder Singh Chambers LLC for a fresh investigation into third-party money transfers. According to the website of the Singapore-based law firm, it specializes in dispute resolution and international arbitration.
The new probe is initiated after news emerged that Marina Bay Sands was investigated by the US Department of Justice and Singapore authorities after a customer of the casino sued its parent organization, Marina Bay Sands Ltd., claiming that S$9.1 million of his money was transferred to other casino patrons without his explicit authorization.
Wang Xi, a Chinese gambler who frequented Marina Bay Sands, last year filed a lawsuit against the casino, seeking to recover his money. The unauthorized third-party transfers reportedly took place between October and December 2015. Mr. Wang claimed that the money was moved from his casino deposit accounts to other gamblers’ accounts in 22 separate transactions.
The lawsuit was settled this past June when the casino agreed to reimburse the full amount. The settlement contained a non-admission of liability from the two involved parties.
Mr. Wang’s lawsuit sparked a series of probes into how Marina Bay Sands handled VIP players’ accounts and third-party transfers and whether it breached anti-money laundering regulations.
The so-called third-party transfers, when authorized by patrons, are legal and often used by group of high rollers in Asia to pool their winnings and losses at different casinos in the region.
These transactions are sometimes made through junket operators. In Singapore, junkets and their activities are generally more strictly monitored and controlled than in other parts of Asia. However, Mr. Wang’s lawsuit prompted Singapore authorities and casino regulators as well as the US Department of Justice to review Marina Bay Sands’ activities.
The casino itself conducted a probe with law firm Hogan Lovells, which covered transactions made between 2013 and 2017. During the review, the law firm found instances of casino employees breaching standards by filling in payment details on pre-signed or photo-copied authorization forms. There were also instances when original documents were destroyed.
The probe additionally uncovered more than 3,000 letters of authorization that were used between 2013 and 2017 to authorize transactions from casino customers to third parties worth nearly S$1.4 billion, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Casino Regulator Says Marina Bay Sands Did Not Breach Requirements
In its review Hogan Lovells discovered letters authorizing transactions worth S$365 million from multiple casino customers that bore signatures that appeared to be very similar. One group of employees at Marina Bay Sands was discovered to have been involved in S$763 million in transfers.
The Singapore Casino Regulatory Authority said that it has completed its own probe into allegations that one of city-state’s two casinos conducted unauthorized money transfers from a gambler’s deposit account.
The regulator concluded that while Marina Bay Sands did not breach any requirements in that particular case, including those of the requirements concerned with anti-money laundering, the casino did show weaknesses in its “casino control measures pertaining to fund transfers.”
The regulator went on that it takes “a serious view” of matters of this kind and has directed Marina Bay Sands to tighten up its control measures, which the casino has done.
The casino informed the Casino Regulatory Authority that it strengthened its transaction control processes in April 2018 and that every fund transfer request has to be approved by the gambling venue’s compliance department. In addition, casino employees now undergo training to detect and report any suspicious behavior and unlicensed junket-related activities.
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