Star admits misleading NAB over China Union Pay, as public hearings begin

The Star Sydney, Star Entertainment Group

A senior manager for Star Entertainment has admitted misleading one of Australia’s biggest banks over the use of China Union Pay within the group’s casinos.

Assistant Group Treasurer Paulinka Dudek was testifying at the New South Wales Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority’s probe into allegations made against the operator in an investigative news report.

The hearings, which had been behind closed doors, became public on Thursday as key witnesses were called. 

According to local media reports, China Union became concerned in 2019 that its cards were being used to pay for large gambling transactions against its rules and passed its views on to National Australia Bank (NAB).

NAB subsequently made inquiries at Star. Dudek replied in an email saying the card was used to pay for hotel accommodation services and provided an invoice, but neglected to say that the card was used for gambling purposes.

In total some $900 million was put on the cards in Star venues, the report said. Use of CUP terminals in its properties was stopped in 2020. 

Counsel Naomi Sharp accused Dudek of misleading the bank – a charge to which she agreed. She later said she became uncomfortable, feeling that the company was not being complete with NAB.

Despite being a senior manager in the treasury department, Dudk said that she was fairly new to the group at the time and she only had a “very basic” understanding of Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter terrrorism financing regulations.

The documentary, produced by three of Australia’s leading media outlets, has accused Star of enabling AML, organized crime, fraud and foreign interference in its gaming operations.

The probe is looking into whether the company is suitable to hold a license for its flagship Sydney property.

The probe follows a series of damning inquiries into rival operator Crown Resorts, which was found to be unsuitable in New South Wales and Victoria. Findings from a probe in Western Australia are expected imminently. 

Also due to appear before the Star inquiry is Chinese billionaire property developer Phillip Dong Fang Lee, who was a high roller at the casino.