The royal-commission style investigation into The Star Entertainment Group’s Sydney operations is likely to initially be focused on determining whether Chinese high-rollers were given the means to withdraw gambling funds disguised as hotel expenses, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The commission is headed by Adam Bell, SC, the counsel assisting the Bergin Inquiry in 2020. The inquiry came after a report was published by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, and 60 Minutes which linked The Star with the facilitation of money laundering and poor governance practices.
The news outlet notes that one of the key witnesses being called next week is Chinese billionaire Philip Dong Fang Lee, a high-roller at the Star, who is alleged to have used Star’s China Union Pay card system to move “millions” from China to Australia in 2014 and 2015.
The news outlet said it was informed by multiple sources aware of the inquiry’s focus that the inquiry will look at whether Lee used the system to move funds from China to Australia to purchase property.
The witness list will also have two former Star executives, Paul McWilliams and Tarnya O’Neil, who commissioned an internal audit by KPMG which warned that The Star was failing to combat money laundering in 2018.
The inquiry may look at how Star’s senior executive team reacted to the KPMG report, and what corrective steps were taken at the time.
A total of six current Star executives and senior managers have been called to give evidence in the first two weeks of hearings which began on March 17.