News State NSW News Senior Star boss denies ‘shielding’ casino

Senior Star boss denies ‘shielding’ casino

Star casino
Star Entertainment chairman John O'Neill is set to face an inquiry into the gambling giant. Photo: AAP
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Star Entertainment’s top risk and legal manager has denied claiming legal professional privilege over a KPMG report critical of the gaming giant’s anti-money laundering program to shield it from regulators.

A royal-commission-style inquiry into the fitness of Star to hold a Sydney casino licence has so far prompted the resignation of Star CEO Matt Bekier, and led to calls for a similar inquiry into the ASX-listed company’s two Queensland casinos.

Paula Martin, Star’s chief legal and risk officer, resumed in the witness stand on Tuesday and was quizzed over an independent KPMG report produced in 2018 that was critical of the casino’s anti-money laundering processes at the time.

Among the problems it pointed out was a lack of anti-money laundering resources at the Sydney casino , an inadequately documented risk assessment methodology, and shortcomings in risk assessment of junkets, the inquiry was told.

It was told that Ms Martin, a lawyer, claimed legal professional privilege over the report, but that she now believed the view “in hindsight was an error”.

“I’m going to suggest to you that there was no proper basis for you to make that claim at the time, do you agree?” counsel assisting Naomi Sharp asked.

“No I don’t agree with that statement,” Ms Martin replied.

She rejected Ms Sharp’s assertion that the claim of privilege over the KPMG report, and minutes of an internal casino meeting in which it was discussed, was part of an effort to shield documents from being disclosed to regulators.

She also denied the barrister’s claim that she did not in fact refer to the privilege claim in the meeting, but that it was “something you just wrote afterwards”.

“No I believe the minutes would capture the discussion,” the witness said.

In a tense morning session, Ms Sharp submitted at another point: “You understand you can’t just slap a legal professional privilege claim on any old report that gets commissioned by The Star, don’t you?”

“Yes I understand that,” Ms Martin replied.

The inquiry is working its way up the gaming operator’s internal hierarchy, with Star top brass Mark Walker, Harry Theodore, Greg Hawkins and Mr Bekier also due to appear at the probe, helmed by Adam Bell SC, this week.

It was sparked by reports accusing Star of enabling suspected money laundering, organised crime, fraud and foreign interference at its gaming facilities, including The Star Sydney.

The inquiry continues.