Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Star Entertainment Exec ‘Stole $13.3M’ from Junket Operator, Went AWOL

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Posted on: May 4, 2022, 03:03h. 

Last updated on: May 4, 2022, 03:03h.

Star Entertainment’s senior VP of international marketing “disappeared” in 2020, allegedly with AU$13.3 million (US$9.7 million) belonging to a Chinese junket operator.

Matt Bekier
Former Star Entertainment CEO Matt Bekier told the inquiry Wednesday he did not learn of the alleged crime until after Kim went AWOL. (Image: Brendan Thorne/Bloomberg)

That’s the latest explosive revelation from an ongoing inquiry in New South Wales into the Australian casino operator’s suitability to hold a license in the state. Until Wednesday, the incident had never been reported in the press.

The inquiry heard that the junketer, Kuan Koi, accused Star executive Simon Kim of stealing the money.

Kim is alleged to have achieved this by issuing a “false transfer instruction” to Macau junket Suncity, then the world’s biggest junket operator. This resulted in the money being sent to a personal account controlled by Kim, rather than to Koi.

Former Star CEO Matt Bekier told the inquiry that he only became aware of the allegation “when Simon Kim disappeared,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald. The company later settled with Koi.

‘Taking Responsibility’

Bekier resigned March 28 in a bid to “take responsibility” for some the company’s failings, which have been laid bare by the inquiry.

These include several of his own, such as that he chose to ignore a 2018 report compiled by third-party consultant KMPG that Star was not complying with anti-money laundering laws.

According to Star’s former chief risk officer, Paul McWilliams, Bekier “grew hostile” and “sulky” after he read the report and claimed its findings were “wrong.”

But McWilliams testified in March that he agreed with its analysis at the time and later found the problems were worse than he expected.

Star is accused of flouting AML protocols in the pursuit of VIP high rollers, some of whom were criminals, and of forming business ties with junket groups with links to organized crime, including Suncity. The company is alleged to have misused Chinese bank cards and possibly evaded state taxes.

It has also been accused of lying to gaming regulators. The inquiry has heard damning evidence that Star allowed Suncity to secretly operate an unbranded VIP room, which was concealed from regulators. That was after Bekier had announced the company had severed its relationship with the junket.

‘Out of Control’

Lawyers assisting the inquiry brought up the Simon Kim incident Wednesday to suggest to Bekier that the VIP team was “simply out of control.”

The inquiry also heard about the company’s president of VIP sales, Marcus Lim, who was accused of “corrupt payments,’ and “affiliation with illegal and undesirable elements,” as well as financial mismanagement, according to the Herald.

Star launched an investigation into Lim, but he was made redundant before it could be completed.

Bekier denied the team had been “out of control.”

“But there were clearly shortcomings,” he conceded.

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