The Star boss Matt Bekier defends reaction to audit report

“If our processes worked properly, that should have been handled by the business that’s responsible for that, not me.”

Gambling on the China UnionPay card was strictly prohibited, however the inquiry has heard claims the casino allowed the practice by disguising $900 million of gaming transactions as hotel expenses.

Bekier earlier conceded it was a “fundamental failing” of the Star to allow the practice, which skirted Chinese controls on moving funds out of the country.

“We accepted something that we knew was wrong from the very beginning,” he said. “I let that happen, yes.”

Bekier has maintained that he was given assurances by senior staff that Star was not in breach of any legislation by allowing CUP card transactions, despite their use meaning Star provided temporary loans to patrons to gamble before their funds had been processed.

Such a practice was at risk of contravening the Casino Control Act, counsel assisting Naomi Sharp, SC, suggested to the inquiry

“I will be shocked if I had agreed to ask for us to enter knowingly into an arrangement that breaches regulation,” Bekier said. “And it looks like I did, so I cannot explain.”

“How did this happen under your watch?” Sharp said.

Bekier said he now agrees NAB was seriously misled by Star and that senior executives in legal, risk and finance teams acted unethically.

“It’s in respect to the VIP business that we’ve made these mistakes,” Bekier said, adding, “this is bad.” He has also liked the VIP business to a “dark art.”

Adam Bell, SC, who is overseeing the inquiry, argued that while Bekier had accepted personal responsibility by resigning, evidence suggested a much wider cultural problem for which the board must also accept responsibility.

However, Bekier said he did not think it was up to the board to influence the culture.

“If I had been a [non-executive director] of Star Entertainment I would not accept responsibility for this behavior,” he said.

The inquiry also heard management prepared a board paper in the wake of revelations by this masthead in 2019 about Crown Resorts dealings with junkets linked to organized crime, including the Suncity outfit, which was also The Star’s biggest junket partner.

But the report made no mention that senior Star executives possessed a copy of a report by the Hong Kong Jockey Club which detailed Suncity’s criminal links.

“Do you agree that failing to alert the board to the fact that Star held this report was basically misleading the board?” Sharp asked.

Bekier said it “certainly wasn’t being fully transparent” but not necessarily misleading.

Later, he conceded The Star had failed to report to the regulator “significant, sustained, serious breaches,” including suspected money laundering occurring in a private gaming suite operated by Suncity.

However, he told the inquiry he had no idea the conduct was occurring.


The inquiry continues.


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