Singapore casino third party money transfers under investigation 

By Ethan Anderson Updated
Third party authorisations cause problems for Singapore casino

An investigation into employee transfers of more than $1 billion in gamblers’ money to third parties has led to an investigation by Las Vegas Sands Corp’s Singapore casino.

Bloomberg reports Davinder Singh Chambers, which specialises in dispute resolution and international arbitration, was appointed after Singapore police began to probe third-party transfers at Marina Bay Sands, said the people who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.

The review by one Singapore’s best known law firms adds to the scrutiny of the casino by the US Department of Justice and Singapore authorities after a patron sued the firm last year alleging that US$6.7 million of his money was transferred to other gamblers without his knowledge.

The lawsuit was settled out of court in June, with the casino agreeing to reimburse the full amount.

There was  “non-admission” of liability from both sides.

In a statement, Marina Bay Sands said when issues regarding the handling of client transfers were raised, the company thoroughly reviewed the matter and concluded that no patron funds were transferred in a manner that was contrary to the client’s intent.

“MBS continues to work closely with its regulators to monitor MBS’s compliance with all legal obligations,” the casino said.

Las Vegas Sands’ shares dropped 4.2 per cent in New York, plunging as much as 8.9 per cent since March.

A representative from Davinder Singh Chambers declined to comment.

The Singapore police force said it’s inappropriate to comment as investigations are ongoing.

The client lawsuit sparked scrutiny by a slew of authorities into how Marina Bay Sands handled and monitored third-party transfers.

The transactions, when authorised, are legal and used by groups of wealthy gamblers in Asia to pool winnings and losses at different casinos.

The transfers are sometimes made through so-called junket operators, which provide transportation, hotels and credit to high rollers.

In Macau, the junkets allow Chinese gamblers to get around strict capital controls by pledging assets on the mainland in exchange for credit at casinos.

Earlier probe finds employees not complying with standards

While the junkets are generally more strictly controlled in Singapore, an earlier probe by Marina Bay Sands and the Hogan Lovells law firm found instances of employees not complying with proper standards by filling in payment details on pre-signed or photo-copied authorisation forms, according to the people.

It also uncovered cases in which original documents were destroyed, the people said.

During the Hogan Lovells review covering 2013-17, more than 3000 letters of authorisation were used to endorse transfer of funds from patrons to third parties worth about S$1.4 billion, according to the people.

Las Vegas Sands’ Singapore unit, among the most profitable in billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s gaming empire, called on Hogan Lovells’ team that specialises in corporate investigations and contentious regulatory matters after the Casino Regulatory Authority started its probe following the 2019 lawsuit from patron Wang Xi.

The US Attorney’s Office has meanwhile interviewed a former compliance chief of Marina Bay Sands in July as part of the justice department’s probe into whether anti-money laundering procedures had been breached in handling high rollers, people familiar with the matter said.

Of the transactions scrutinised in the Hogan Lovells review, letters authorising transfers worth S$365 million from multiple patrons bore signatures that appeared to be similar, facilitating numerous transfers, one of the people said.

One group of employees was involved in S$763 million in transfers.e

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