Former Star CEO fronts casino inquiry

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Details emerge of Queensland’s review in Star casinos

As the former chief executive officer of embattled casino operator Star Entertainment Group fronted a NSW inquiry into the company’s suitability to hold a casino licence, revelations were made that a senior manager allegedly misappropriated funds from the casino giant before “disappearing” in 2020.

The Australian Financial Review reports that former Star CEO Matt Bekier was unable to say what the result of Star’s investigation into the matter was, which included a $13.3 million payment from junket Suncity, which the manager told the group to transfer to his personal account.

Bekier said he “ thought he had disappeared some time before” his employment was officially terminated in July 2020.

Mr Bekier also conceded he was ‘not sure” whether Star’s board was informed of the alleged misconduct by Simon Kim, who was Star’s senior vice president of international marketing, and that he was “not aware” of whether the NSW gambling regulator knew of it.

Mr Kim was one of several senior managers within the VIP division who were investigated for alleged misconduct, but Mr Bekier denied this meant the VIP business was “out of controL”.

He also denied he “dropped the ball” as a manager, despite the international VIP team engaging in what he previously labelled “dark arts” and a variety of wrongdoing outlined in the hearing, just as the high roller cash flowing into Star’s coffers was at its height.

Bekier answers questions about former marketing manager fleecing funds

The revelations cap Mr Bekier’s evidence before inquiry, which is reviewing Star’s suitability to hold a casino licence, in which he has blamed a bad “subculture” in Star’s VIP business arm for the widespread misconduct uncovered at the company.

He has said he had been “let down” by his subordinates and that he was “accountable” only for the “ineffective” governance frameworks.

He also argued that the board, most of whom will appear in mid-May, was not responsible.

Asked about Mr Kim, Mr Bekier initially said he “may have heard the name” but did not know him because he was based in Macau.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Naomi Sharp SC then brought up the “various allegations that he misappropriated funds”.

At that point, Mr Bekeir said the silk had “jogged his memory” and he recalled knowing of Mr Kim.

The inquiry heard that Star ultimately reached a settlement with the junket tour operator who reported the fraud, Kuan Koi.

Ms Sharp also suggested that Star “shuffled off” another senior manager accused of impropriety, former president of VIP sales Marcus Lim, by offering him a generous payout with redundancy rather than resolving its investigation into him.

Internal investigation causes concern

A senior staff member at the time conducted an internal investigation of Mr Lim after “several areas of concern were raised with respect to him, including allegations of inappropriate conduct and potential conflicts of interest”.

These included allegations of “corrupt payments” and “affiliation with undesirable elements”.

The inquiry heard that Mr Lim allegedly used patron benefit schemes to buy luxury goods, made payments to The Star on behalf of Suncity, and had a rolling credit and prof-sharing arrangement with another junket.

But Star did not resolve the allegations between when they surfaced in July 2019 and Mr Lim’s redundancy in June 2020, which Mr Bekier agreed was “an incredible delay”.

Star also gave Mr Lim six months’ gardening leave on full pay when he was made redundant for COVID-19 related reasons, which Ms Sharp suggested was “highly inappropriate” given “a series of serious allegations against him remained outstanding”.

Mr Bekier said it was “surprising we chose that avenue” but blamed the length of the investigation.

Asked by Ms Sharp whether Star was “simply shuffling off Marcus Lim quietly to avoid making any disclosure of serious impropriety conduct of a senior manager,” the former CEO said he was “not sure”.

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