News State NSW News Chinese gambler had three passports at Star, inquiry told

Chinese gambler had three passports at Star, inquiry told

Star casino
Star Entertainment chairman John O'Neill is set to face an inquiry into the gambling giant. Photo: AAP
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A Chinese high-roller who bought $1.7 billion in chips at Star Entertainment casinos had three passports on file under two different names and should have been investigated as a “high risk” patron, an inquiry has been told.

The NSW gaming regulator is probing the fitness of Star to hold a Sydney casino licence in the wake of media reports claiming the company enabled suspected money laundering, organised crime, fraud and foreign interference at its venues.

Damning evidence at the inquiry has so far prompted the resignations of the gambling giant’s chief executive Matt Bekier, chief financial officer Harry Theodore, chief casino officer Greg Hawkins, and chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin.

On Friday, Star director Sally Pitkin was quizzed about the gaming history of Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo, with the inquiry told the high-roller bought $1.7 billion worth of chips at Star venues until he was barred in 2019.

The inquiry was told Mr Huang was banned from Star after allegations surfaced he was an agent of influence for an overseas government.

Ms Pitkin testified she was not aware that Mr Huang’s buy-in at Star was more than $400 million in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016 .

“I understood from some board reports that he was a significant player. I became aware of the total quantum of his play in preparing for this review,” she said.

The inquiry was told that by March 5, 2018, in respect of Mr Huang, Star held copies of three different passports from the same country, with two different names used, and two different birthdates.

“I was not aware of that at the time,” Ms Pitkin said.

“What, if any, comment do you have on that?” counsel assisting Caspar Conde asked.

“That would warrant investigation,” the witness said.

The inquiry was told that neither Kevin Houlihan, the company’s general manager of financial crime and investigations, nor anyone else at Star’s investigations team was asked to probe the source of Mr Huang’s wealth.

“I would have thought Mr Huang’s source of wealth should have been investigated given he should have been a patron with a high-risk rating,” Ms Pitkin said.

She said if Mr Huang was classified as a politically exposed person “that would have automatically rated him as high risk”.

Star director Katie Lahey and chairman John O’Neill are the next witnesses due to front the inquiry, which continues before Adam Bell SC.