The gambling giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. has established a new committee to investigate potential violations of anti-money laundering rules at the company’s casino in Singapore that has been targeted by local police and US officials’ probes.
The committee consists of three independent members of the board. It is checking money transfers carried out among high-roller players and third parties at the company’s Singapore-based venue called Marina Bay Sands. As explained by people familiar with the situation, the committee members are also reviewing any possible revenge that could be taken against whistleblowers. According to sources of information who asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential, Las Vegas Sands has hired Vinson & Elkins LLP, a US law firm, to help the newly-established committee.
The gambling giant refused to provide more details about the situation.
The Singaporean operation of the firm is its second-most profitable division. As mentioned above, the probe into its operations follows action by the Singapore police and the US Department of Justice after a former patron of the venue – Wang Xi – reported that Marina Bay Sands distributed S$9.1 million from his account with the casino to other casino patrons without informing him about that and getting his consent. The lawsuit was ended with an out-of-court settlement in June 2020, with both sides agreeing “non-admission” of liability.
As revealed in a subpoena issued to a former chief compliance officer in January 2020, the DOJ is checking whether the casino violated any money laundering provisions in the way it treated so-called high-roller gamblers and acted against whistleblowers.
Tranfers Worth More than S$1.60 Billion Were Carried Out among Casino Patrons
An internal probe held by the casino showed that the money transfers that triggered the Wang Xi lawsuit were not isolated cases. Reportedly, thousands of money transfers, estimated at a total of S$1.64 billion, were carried out among casino patrons by the employees of Marina Bay Sands in the period from 2010 to the end of 2018.
Stuart Altman, the chief compliance officer, who is leaving the company at the end of the month, refused to comment on the matter. According to unnamed sources, his departure is not associated with any of the investigations.
Basically, the wire transfers are not illegal, but the investigation found that a number of employees seem to have seized control of the process in order to make gambling easier. The probe also found that these staff members would make the gamblers sign a blank authorization form, and fill in the transfer amount and the rest of the details required for subsequent transfers afterwards. People with knowledge of the matter have explained that the employees in question would use photocopies of the document on various occasions and would also copy signatures if necessary and get rid of the originals.
The Singaporean casino of Las Vegas Sands has explained that it reduced the number of third-party transfers and enhanced security over their usage. As Bloomberg reported, the number of transfers fell from a peak of 1,011 in 2014 to only six in 2018.