Star boss denies 'advocating' for casino
The boss of Star Entertainment's financial crime unit has been accused of acting as an advocate for the beleaguered gambling giant, at an inquiry examining its fitness to hold a Sydney casino licence.
The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority inquiry into The Star Sydney has so far prompted the resignation of Star CEO Matt Bekier, and sparked calls for a similar inquiry into the ASX-listed company's two Queensland casinos.
On Friday, evidence continued from Star general manager of financial crime and investigations Kevin Houlihan - a former police officer in charge of preventing financial crime inside the the gaming company's Sydney operations..
Mr Houlihan was quizzed over what he knew of internal 2015 concerns high roller Phillip Dong Fang Lee was taking gaming plaques home, "spat his dummy" at staff, used proxy players, and swiped his China Union Pay debit card "just to get cash".
"Despite the fact that you were the investigations manager, the general manager of VIP credit and collections never made this concern known to you?' Ms Sharp asked.
"I don't ever recall ... being made aware," Mr Houlihan said.
Ms Sharp put to the witness: "Are you trying to be objective and truthful in your evidence to this review or are you acting as an advocate for Star Entertainment?"
"I'm trying to respond ... as effectively and honestly as I can," he said.
The inquiry was told Mr Lee turned over $2.27 billion at the casino from 2007 to 2021, losing a net $57 million, and withdrew almost $100 million via a CUP card.
It was told the high roller as given a "medium risk" rating, but internal casino records did not reveal if his risk ratings were assessed or reviewed.
Shown minutes from an internal casino meeting in 2015, Mr Houlihan conceded the phrase "KH to investigate" was a reference to him, but claimed the wrong words had been used and said he never launched an probe into the gambler.
The inquiry has previously been told the casino allowed VIPs to use CUP cards to purchase gambling chips at the venue, despite knowing that was in breach of rules from China Union Pay, and then disguised the transactions as hotel charges.
Casino management held personal concerns about the use of a CUP card by Mr Lee - a Chinese-born Australian property developer - being linked to potential money laundering, evidence has shown.
Also on Friday, Mr Houlihan denied that he "consistently buried" bad news about Alvin Chau, the backer of Macau-based junket operator Suncity, which had an exclusive deal over controversial private gaming room Salon 95, inside The Star.
The decision was made to stop Suncity's operations at The Star following the arrest of Mr Chau in November.
Ms Sharp accused the witness of participating in creating a chain of documents that did not provide a fair view of the information he knew about Mr Chau's probity so that what would be available to auditors was an "anodyne" report.
"No," Mr Houlihan replied.
The witness was also queried by Adam Bell SC, who is helming the inquiry, about his attitude to dealing with patrons with Triad links in their past.
"That's not a concern to you?" Mr Bell asked.
"It's a consideration, it's not a concern," the witness said.
The inquiry 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.