A former NAB relations manager said he did not understand that bank-provided terminals at Star Entertainment’s Sydney casino were being used to purchase gaming chips in breach of the rules.
A royal commission-style probe is investigating ASX-listed Star after media claims the company enabled suspicions of money laundering, organized crime, fraud and foreign interference in its sites, including The Star Sydney.
It prompted a cleanup at the gaming giant, including chief executive and managing director Matt Bekier, chief financial officer Harry Theodore, casino manager Greg Hawkins and chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin.
Star Entertainment executive chairman John O’Neill is due to testify this week just days after announcing he would step down from the board.
On Monday, the inquest heard testimony from Andrew Bowen, a former director of institutional banking industries at NAB, who was asked about his knowledge of the Star Sydney terminals where China Union Pay cards were swiped.
The investigation was told that CUP card transactions were disguised as hotel accommodation charges to purchase gambling chips in violation of Chinese Union rules.
It has been proven that approximately $900 million was paid into the casino until the CUP process, which raised internal concerns about possible money laundering, was stopped in 2020.
Mr Bowen said his understanding was that the terminals installed by NAB were located at Star Sydney’s hotel and “not to be used for gambling or gambling purposes”.
“They were to be used for hotel and other expenses,” said Mr Bowen, who was NAB’s relationship manager for The Star between 2012 and 2019.
He was asked if he realized in 2016 or 2017 that in fact CUP cards were swiped for the “ultimate purpose” of buying game chips.
“I had no knowledge of it,” Mr Bowen said.
He was also asked what he thought of transactions valued between $20,000 and $200,000 at the terminals, saying Star VIP customers “could easily” spend such amounts, including on the company’s private jet.
“They could pay for anything outside of games, like hotels, entertainment, flights, tours, shopping, meals, alcohol,” he said.
Also on Monday, Star manager Richard Sheppard was asked about Mr Bekier’s ‘why not’ answer during the inquiry when asked about the casino operator’s dealings with the famed casino operator. Macau-based junket, Suncity.
The inquest heard that Mr Bekier was told by casino staff in 2019 that the venue had received correspondence from the NSW Police Commissioner saying six people associated with Suncity had been barred from the casino.
Suncity was found to have an exclusive access deal to a VIP gaming room at The Star, known as Salon 95, where an illegal cage operated.
“That comment reflects a certain degree of arrogance, doesn’t it? assistant attorney Naomi Sharp SC asked Mr Sheppard.
“I think it…reflects negligence,” he replied.
He was also asked if he had “continuing confidence” in the Star Group’s general counsel, Andrew Power, after the investigation revealed a lack of transparency with regulators.
“Based on everything I’ve seen and the evidence from this investigation, no,” Mr Sheppard said.
Many Star directors are expected to resign after witnessing mismanagement, paving the way for renewal of the struggling company.
Directors Sally Pitkin and Gerard Bradley have already announced their intention to step down from the board.
The investigation continues before Adam Bell SC.
Australian Associated Press