Star Entertainment Exec Admits Casino Operator Lied to Financial Regulators

Posted on: March 17, 2022, 06:56h. 

Last updated on: March 17, 2022, 11:41h.

An investigation into Star Entertainment Group’s activity in New South Wales is now live. Public hearings just started, and there are already admissions of wrongdoing by the Australian casino operator.

Star Sydney
Outside Star Entertainment’s Star Sydney in New South Wales. The casino is the target of an investigation by the Australian state’s gaming regulator. (Image: The Australian)

New South Wales (NSW) only today began grilling Star Entertainment in a series of public hearings. Already, after just barely getting the sessions started, there are admissions that the casino operator hasn’t always played by the rules. At this pace, Star’s future in NSW is uncertain.

Several Star executives are going to take turns in the hot seat in front of NSW’s Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA). One of these is Paulinka Dudek, the company’s then-senior treasury manager, who was in the spotlight today.

The ILGA didn’t waste any time finding its target and, according to The Guardian, uncovered proof that Star has been remiss in its financial obligations. Dudek admitted that the company misled the National Australia Bank (NAB) about the source and destination of funds linked to certain high rollers.

Star Not Shining Brightly

Specifically, Dudek acknowledged that she assisted in efforts to fool the NAB regarding payments coming through China’s Union Pay bank cards. Chinese gamblers were routinely using them at casinos in Australia, raising authorities’ suspicions.

In 2019, the China Union, the provider of the cards, contacted the NAB to voice its concerns. The bank then contacted Star, which replied that the large sums of money were for “hotel accommodation services.”

The company communicated with the NAB via email and offered proof. However, Dudek admits that she sent at least one falsified invoice to the bank, covering Star’s activity.

One witness can reportedly confirm the details. Phillip Dong Fang Lee, a Chinese billionaire real estate developer, used Union Pay cards specifically as described. The ILGA will question him during the public hearings.

Dudek explained that she only did as she was told, although she later became uncomfortable. She was new at the company and “was still understanding how these transactions worked.”

This was despite 12 years in the financial industry, including more than five years at Deloitte Australia, according to her LinkedIn profile. Dudek was promoted to Assistant Treasurer at Star in August 2020, a position she holds today.

More Evidence of Fraud Coming

The public hearings will reportedly last for a week. During this time, evidence will allegedly show that Star, much like Crown Resorts, routinely engaged in questionable and possibly illegal activity. The company allegedly ignored anti-money-laundering (AML) protocols while catering to organized crime figures and allowing foreign interference at its venues.

Star, which is building a $3.6-billion (US$2.6 billion) property in Brisbane’s Queen’s Wharf, is also under fire for its management of junket relationships and marketing efforts in China. The Chinese government prohibits the marketing of gambling products in the country. Crown willfully ignored the prohibition, and Star may have, as well.

The casino operator has tried to cover itself, much in the way Crown did, by saying that it goes out of its way to prevent criminal activity at its casinos. However, those efforts apparently don’t extend to the corporate offices.

Star operates, among other properties, the Star Sydney, The Star Gold Coast, and Treasury Brisbane. The first is in NSW and is the target of the ILGA’s inquiry. The other two casinos are in Queensland.

Queensland conducted an internal investigation last year. However, it didn’t launch a full-blown public inquiry. Instead, it determined it would allow the investigations into Crown and Star to guide its decisions.