The United States’ Department of Justice has launched a probe into Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Casino for alleged breaches of money laundering protocols in relation to the handling of its top gamblers’ accounts.
Bloomberg reported on Friday (5 June) that according to a grand jury subpoena to a former compliance chief of Marina Bay Sands Pte, the Justice Department had sought an interview or documents on “money laundering facilitation” as well as any internal financial control lapses.
The former compliance head was asked by prosecutors to submit records connected to any such possible violations including through gambling junkets and third-party lending using casino credit, according to the subpoena.
In addition to requesting records related to possible financial misuse or lapses within the Singapore casino, the Justice Department is also seeking to investigate if whistleblowers on the case are being subject to any repercussions.
The subpoena also sought to obtain information regarding another former casino employee, who, according to insiders, said “carried out fund transfers to high rollers”, Bloomberg noted.
A US Attorney’s Office spokesperson told Bloomberg that she could not comment on the ongoing probe.
Separately, the MBS casino is also being probed into by Singapore’s Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) regarding its money transfer policies.
A CRA spokesperson said that while the agency cannot comment on the ongoing investigations, it has not received any request from the US Justice Department regarding MBS.
CRA in its 2018/2019 annual report said that it handed MBS a fine of S$15,000 within the April 2018 to March 2019 financial year for failing to implement controls or directions outlined by the agency, as well as failing to secure social safeguards.
MBS was fined S$10,000 for allowing a minor to enter its casino premises, and fined S$5,000 for letting a Singapore permanent resident into the premises without a valid entry permit.
Together with Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), CRA had issued a total S$746,700 in fines for breaches committed throughout the above period — the highest in five years up to 2019.
According to the report, the amount collected by CRA in fines in 2018 was also 10 times that of the previous financial year, which was $74,400.
CRA has also previously imposed financial penalties totalling S$337,500 and S$190,000 on MBS and RWS respectively for regulatory breaches reported or detected during the period 1 May 2012 to 31 December 2012.
The MBS casino is owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.
Las Vegas Sands had previously paid million-dollar settlements to end investigations into its failure to flag and report dubious deposits by a top gambler and for bribing government officials in China and Macau in 2013 and 2017 respectively.
MBS, RWS to expand casinos with S$9 billion investment plan; exclusivity until end-2030
Previously in April last year, the Singapore government had agreed to allow the expansion of the MBS and the RWS casinos.
In a joint statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on 3 April 2019, the Government said that the S$9 billion investment by the two Integrated Resorts (IRs) is almost two-thirds of their initial investment of S$15 billion in 2006.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the Government “have been in intense negotiations with the two IRs to keep their non-gaming offerings fresh while limiting the potential downsides of the gaming components”.
“In exchange for the exclusivity period to be extended to end-2030, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa will invest around S$9 billion to expand and refresh their non-gaming components,” he added.
The additional investment will enable MBS to add a new entertainment arena and hotel tower, while RWS will extend Universal Studios Singapore to include two new attractions, Minion Park and Super Nintendo World.
Additionally, MBS and RWS will be allowed to enlarge their 15,000 sqm Approved Gaming Area (AGA) to an additional 2,000 sqm and 500 sqm respectively, subject to additional land costs.
As the non-gaming areas will be expanded by a much larger area, the AGA as a proportion of total floor area will be reduced from 3.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
However, MBS and RWS will be able to increase their gaming machines by 1,000 and 800 respectively.