The Star Accused of Looking the Other Way as Suncity Laundered Millions

Posted on: April 4, 2022, 08:48h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2022, 11:06h.

Star Entertainment has virtually no chance of walking away from the New South Wales inquiry unscathed. Already facing allegations of serious wrongdoing, a new revelation about its ties to Suncity Group and money laundering will damage the casino operator more.

Alvin Chau
Alvin Chau, the former CEO of Suncity Group. His involvement with Star Entertainment in Australia is damaging the casino operator’s future more than it already was. (Image: Wall Street Journal)

Star Entertainment already has to see the writing on the wall. It was bad enough that internal policies facilitated money-laundering activity, as revealed in the ongoing inquiry in New South Wales (NSW). However, new allegations paint an even grimmer picture of the company’s future.

“A criminal, a member of the 14K triad, and a scammer.”

This is how a Star executive previously described Chau, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. However, the allegations weren’t enough to keep the casino operator from dealing with him.

Suncity Group, the junket operator previously led by Alvin Chau before his arrest in Macau, maintained a cozy relationship with Star for years. It was so friendly that casino executives looked the other way as Chau and Suncity passed millions of dollars daily through the company.

Star Too Friendly with Suncity

Skye Arnott, a Star employee, told the ongoing NSW inquiry that Chau’s reputation and history were on the radar. However, no one at the company – not even Arnott – intervened. At the time, Arnott was Star’s compliance officer, and new in the role, she explained that she didn’t have all the skills and experience necessary to manage the risks.

The inquiry has produced surveillance footage that Star will have an impossible time defending. In it, a casino employee receives a bag from an unidentified individual in Salon 95, a VIP room exclusively for Suncity. In the video, the employee removes bundles of cash, which the individual later placed underneath the counter.

Another video showed a similar scenario. A man walked into the office of Salon 95 with a black backpack that contained significant piles of cash.

By the middle of 2018, Arnott and others knew that Suncity wasn’t playing by the rules. However, instead of requiring the company to adhere to financial regulations, Star only made superficial gestures. Arnott asserts that Star created controls to manage the risk but that no one implemented them appropriately.

Extent of Suncity’s Operations at Star Unknown

It isn’t clear how much money transferred hands in the transactions shown in the surveillance footage. However, according to a previous report by Angus Buchanan, Suncity was able to launder AU$2 million (US$1.5 million) daily using different strategies and operations.

Buchanan previously worked for the Hong Kong Jockey Club and oversees Star’s due diligence and intelligence operations. He included other damning accusations in that report, as well. One places Chau as a figure in one of the biggest bank heists in history.

Chau was allegedly involved in a cyberattack linked to the Bangladesh Bank robbery in 2016. The thieves stole $101 million but tried to take $1 billion.

Chau was essentially using Star as a check-cashing store for years. His activities possibly started from as early as 2015 and continued through 2019. Suncity had exclusive access to Salon 95 beginning in 2016, and it might be impossible to ever ascertain exactly what went on behind closed doors.

Star is already making changes that it hopes will save it from the worst-case scenario – a suspension of its license. However, Crown Resorts tried the same tactic after it became a target. Star’s case may prove that the house doesn’t always win.