US Authorities Probe Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Casino for Violating Money Laundering Laws

The U.S. Department of Justice issued a subpoena to former compliance officer of Marina Bay Sands in January

The Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is under probe by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for possible violations of anti-money laundering regulations.

In January this year, the DOJ issued a grand jury subpoena to a former compliance chief, who had knowledge of the operations of Marina Bay Sands casino, which is part of Las Vegas Sands Corp casino chains. According to the subpoena, DOJ was looking for documents on 'money laundering facilitation' and 'abuse of internal financial controls' as the agency suspected possible breaches in how the top gamblers' accounts were handled. In addition, it also asked for documents on gambling junkets and third-party lending using casino credit. As per reports, the investigation is in its early stages and is also trying to probe if the casino chain tried to retaliate against the whistleblowers.

However, the U.S attorney's office failed to confirm or deny any such investigation. As for the casino chain, it said it did not receive any request from the DOJ, adding that it takes inappropriate activity seriously and investigates all the possible wrongdoing internally.

A view of the Marina Bay Sands casino and hotel and the skyline of Singapore's central business district Reuters

Tough Times

One of the most profitable casinos in the world, the Marina Bay Sands reopened on June 1 after closing its doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic. With a profit margin of 53-56 percent in the last three years, the casino accounted for almost one-fifth of the income of the parent company in the U.S.

The operations in Singapore and Macau contributed 85 percent of the total revenue (S$19.1 billion) of the company and made Adelson one of the richest men in America. However, the company lost about 5.3 percent of its value due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic as it closed its doors in March.

Probe in Singapore

Marina Bay Sands has also been facing investigation in the city-state by the Casino Regulatory Authority (CRA) for its money transfer policies. Last year, one of its former Chinese clients, Wang Xi, filed a lawsuit against the casino to recover $9.1 million. Xi said that the money was sent to other customers without his knowledge or approval. Singapore police are still investigating the claims.

Casino (representational picture) Pixabay

The CRA also asked the Marina Bay Sands to review its third-party transfers, which could be used by other gamblers to share winnings and losses at other casinos abroad if authorized. The process is legal. The company, however, denied such transactions ever took place.

"When allegations related to the mishandling of 'letters of authorization' were made, the company thoroughly reviewed the matter and concluded that no patron funds were transferred in a manner that was contrary to a patron's intent," the Marina Bay Sands said in the statement.

Past Probes

In the past Las Vegas Sands, the parent company, had also faced DOJ probes. In 2013, the company had to pay US$47.4 Million to settle a federal investigation. The casino in Las Vegas failed to disclose suspicious deposits by a gambler.

Again in 2017, it paid US$6.96 Million to settle another federal investigation as it allegedly paid bribes to government officials in China and Macau. As per reports, the company willingly failed to legitimize around US$5.8 Million payments to a business consultant — violating U.S. law in the process.

Related topics : Singapore crime