The Star allegedly failed to crack down on organized crime: inquiry

“I don’t believe that’s correct, Ms Sharp,” Martin replied.

Martin agreed The Star gave a “misleading” response to NAB in November 2019 about the China UnionPay transactions because it did not provide “clear comments” that the cards were used in connection with gambling.

“In continuing to use the China UnionPay process from 2013 to March 2020, The Star and you personally acted in complete disregard of the obvious money laundering and counter-terrorism financing risks associated with that payment channel,” Sharp said.

“I don’t agree with that description, Ms Sharp,” Martin replied.

“The reality is, Ms Martin, isn’t it, that by this practice with the CUP cards, The Star left its doors wide open to organized crime,” Sharp said.

“I don’t agree with that,” Martin said.

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Martin, who was The Star’s group general counsel between 2012 and 2019 before she was elevated to the chief legal and risk officer role, rejected a suggestion that she did not “call out” the China UnionPay arrangement as improper or unethical. She said that “risks from a legal perspective while I was group general counsel were being raised within the business at that time”.

But Martin added that “I would reflect back on it now and say that, even if is accepted that the legal and regulatory compliance was there, I would sit here today and say over that time it does not accord with our value of doing the right thing”.

The inquiry has heard that Phillip Dong Fang Lee, a Chinese property developer, was permitted to use the China UnionPay arrangement to transfer $11 million in gambling funds to the Sydney casino in a single day in April 2015.

Martin said she was “aware that approval had been given for Mr Lee to have a check cashing facility for that amount; at the time, I was an approver”.

“To your knowledge, inquiries no whatsoever were made by anybody at The Star in relation to the source of funds for all of these patrons who used the CUP debit facility?” Sharp asked.

“I don’t know that that’s correct,” Martin said.

The Star’s regulatory manager, David Aloi, told the inquiry last month he had concerns Lee may have been involved in money laundering and referred the matter to the chief financial officer.

Martin did not agree that the use of the China UnionPay cards blurred the mainland Chinese government’s restrictions on capital outflows.

“Just to be clear, Ms Martin, none of your answers to my questions this morning have been frank or candid, have they?” Sharp asked.

“I believe I’m doing my best to do that, Ms Sharp,” Martin replied.

The NSW gambling regulator is required to review any casino licenses in the state every five years. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority commenced public hearings in its latest review of The Star’s suitability to hold its Sydney casino license on March 17.

A joint investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes last year revealed allegations the casino group enabled suspected money laundering, organized crime, large-scale fraud and foreign interference within its Australian casinos.

The inquiry continues.

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