A suspicious operation
CCTV footage from The Star Sydney casino back in 2018 has thrown up some serious concerns about money laundering at the property. The release of the footage came as part of an ongoing royal commission into the casino.
junket operator was running its own private gaming salon
The video shows a worker for the Macau-based junket operator SunCity filling a brown paper bag with AU$50 (US$37.47) bills, seemingly ignoring the ban in place on the junket catering to cash transactions. The junket operator was running its own private gaming salon at the property, despite suspicions that it was laundering money.
Speaking at the hearing, The Star Sydney’s due diligence group manager Angus Buchanan said he had suspicions previously about money laundering potentially happening at the casino. Commissioner Adam Bell SC asked Buchannan if he had thought that an organization that had links to Asian organized crime was “running a casino within a casino.” Buchanan admitted that it was a concern for him at the time.
Failing to deal with concerns
The CCTV footage initially came to light internally, with a number of individuals having concerns at the time. In an email in May 2018, The Star Sydney investigator Andrew McGregor expressed his feelings that certain activity within the casino was very strange. He said: “I’m going to call it out early, SunCity is running a business model under our noses which is problematic for Star Entertainment group with regards to AMLCTF (anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing) laws.”
Star Entertainment CEO Matt Bekier announced in 2019 that SunCity would be closing this operation in Sydney following a “mutual decision.” The junket’s backer, Alvin Chau, had recently been banned from going to Australia due to allegations that he had significant links to organized crime.
the junket operator simply resumed its operations in another room
However, The Star Sydney’s due diligence group manager Angus Buchanan claims that this is not what happened. He says that it was actually Alvin Chau who decided to close down the high roller area in August 2018. The next month, the junket operator simply resumed its operations in another room at the property, just not using any SunCity signage. Junket operations have since been banned by the New South Wales authorities.
A tame approach
The Star carried out an internal investigation and discovered that SunCity had been keeping significant sums of cash in sports bags near the gaming room. Staff was allegedly exchanging the casino chips for cash. Through the junket arrangement, SunCity was not supposed to exchange cash for chips and it could not keep cash at the service desk. Following the investigation, The Star just sent two warning letters.
SunCity’s billionaire owner Alvin Chau was eventually arrested in November 2021 by Chinese authorities for money laundering and cross-border gambling offenses. He was the first high-profile individual in the gaming space that the Chinese authorities have gone after.