Star probe extended to end-August to allow for more witnesses

The Star Sydney, Star Entertainment Group

A probe into the business practices of Star Entertainment has been extended by two months to allow more time for further witnesses to be called and for counsel to pursue further lines of inquiry.

The Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority, approving the extension, said it was fully supportive of counsel Adam Bell SC examining additional witnesses and giving further consideration to a number of key issues.

The findings are now due to be handed down on August 31.

The inquiry is looking into whether Star is suitable to hold a license for its flagship property in Sydney. It was triggered by an investigative news report by Australian media outlets that raised concern about money laundering and links to organized crime.

On Friday, group general counsel Andrew Power told the inquiry that he had not seen a Hong Kong Jockey Club report that had been sent to the company in 2019 and which alleged junket operator Suncity had links to drugs trafficking, money laundering and organized crime. He said he was aware that his senior colleagues had read it.

Despite this, Star continued to do business with Suncity, with the junket moving to an unbranded room within the property from where it operated until 2020. 

Since the beginning of the probe on March 17, witnesses have told of a corporate culture in which business interests appear to have been put ahead of compliance.

So far, much of the inquiry has focused on the use of China UnionPay cards by high rollers and attempts to pass off the spending as hotel and other expenses. Oliver White, another legal counsel for the group, had said he believed this was a “legally workable” solution, even though he knew that the cards were not supposed to be used for gambling. 

The relationship with Suncity has been another key focus, with CCTV footage clearly showing people arriving at the casino with large bags full of cash.

In theory, the junket operator was not permitted to operate its own cage. Witnesses have told of how Suncity had been generally uncooperative when asked about its operations.