Star’s chief legal and risk manager admits she could have done more

The public hearings into The Star Sydney will continue until August 31.
The public hearings into The Star Sydney will continue until August 31.

Paula Martin, Star Entertainment’s chief legal and risk manager, has denied accusations that the company was “out of control”.

Australia.- Star Entertainment’s chief legal and risk manager Paula Martin came under pressure from counsel assisting, Naomi Sharp SC, on her third day of testimony at the New South Wales inquiry into Star’s suitability to continue holding a casino licence in Sydney. She denied the company had been “out of control” when it came to money laundering risk, but admitted that she could have done more.

According to local media reports, Sharp accused of Martin of personally “acting in complete disregard of the obvious money laundering and counter-terrorism financing risks” of the casino operator’s decision to continue accepting China UnionPay as a payment method from 2013 to March 2020.

Martin said she disagreed but admitted she could have done more and agreed the company misled National Australia Bank about the use China UnionPay cards at Star Entertainment venues. She added that the company had not made any “explicit comments” about the cards being used for gambling.

Sharp showed Martin an internal note from 2019, which expressed concerns about the international rebate business, particularly the conduct of then-Star senior manager Marcus Lim. An investigation found that Lim was paid $50,000 for brokering services that clients did not return.

Despite the many complaints, Martin said she disagreed that the business was “out of control”. She also denied that the company had violated China’s capital flight rules.

The public hearings into The Star Sydney will continue until August 31 after the New South Wales regulator, the ILGA, approved Adam Bell SC’s request for an extension. According to the regulator, Bell asked for more time “to undertake further lines of inquiry to fully discharge his duties according to the Terms of Reference.”

A week ago, Oliver White, Star Entertainment’s in-house lawyer was questioned about the legality of Star Entertainment accepting China UnionPay cards. White told the inquiry that he knew that China UnionPay cards could not be used for gambling purposes. However, he said he believed it was legal to use the hotel’s point of sale machines to swipe the cards. Once the funds were cleared, they were diverted to gaming.

NSW regulator under scrutiny for lack of action against The Star

A report by The Australian Financial Review has revealed that The Star Entertainment Group has faced 16 disciplinary actions from New South Wales’ Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) since 2016 but only three of these led to fines.

The casino operator faced three fines together totalling AU$199,800. One of the fines was for AU$90,000 and was imposed in 2020 for allowing three underage individuals to enter a casino. Two of the disciplinary measures resulted in “letters of censure”.

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