Star inquiry told senior management dismissed concerns over CUP payments

The Star Sydney, Star Entertainment Group

A probe into Star Entertainment has heard how a senior employee who was uncomfortable about the company disguising gambling spending on China UnionPay cards was told by seniors to “just get it done.”

Regulatory manager David Aloi was giving evidence at the trial in New South Wales, which is now entering its third week, local media reports. 

He said he had been uncomfortable with the practice of swiping the guests’ bank cards and transferring money into their gambling accounts. When he raised concerns with his seniors, these were largely dismissed. 

He also sought clarification from the National Australia Bank account manager for Star and was told they couldn’t see a problem. 

Aloi’s testimony came following news that the probe has claimed its first high-profile scalp. Star CEO Matt Bekier announced he was standing down on Monday to take responsibility for the failings at the company. 

“Mr. Bekier informed the Board that as managing director and CEO he is accountable for the effectiveness and adequacy of the company’s processes, policies, people and culture. Mr. Bekier said the right thing to do was for him to take responsibility,” the company said. 

The probe, which is investigating Star’s suitability to hold a license for its flagship Sydney casino, has already heard how Bekier was angry when he was confronted by allegations of potential money laundering risk at the casino in a 2018 report from KPMG. 

Star former Chief Risk Operator Paul McWilliams testified that Bekier was rude in his body language during the KPMG meeting and signaled that he didn’t think the consultants knew what they were talking about.

KPMG had concluded that The Star did not have “mature” anti-money laundering checks commensurate with the risky nature of the business. It didn’t have methods to detect terrorism financing and its monitoring system was insufficient, failing to flag customers who had brought up to $200,000 into the casino.

The probe has heard that some $900 million was put on China UnionPay cards at the resort and when Star was questioned about the use of funds, it told National Australia Bank, it was for accommodation and expenses. 

It has also heard how one high roller spent $11 million in one day on gambling through his China UnionPay card, without raising any red flags.

The casino’s relationship with junket operator Suncity has also come under scrutiny. Bekier publicly stated in 2019 that Star was no longer doing business with the junket when in reality, it had been moved to a different room without its branding and signage.