Fri, Apr 01, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Hong Kong investigates Sands China in Macau

AFP, HONG KONG

The Macau unit of casino giant Las Vegas Sands said yesterday it was being probed by Hong Kong regulators, a month after US authorities launched a bribery investigation into the company.

Sands China said it had been informed by Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission that it was being probed over “alleged breaches of the provisions of the Securities and Futures Ordinance.” The firm did not elaborate.

In a statement to the Hong Kong exchange, the firm said it had also been requested “to produce certain documents” to facilitate the probe.

“The company is not permitted to comment further at this time,” Sands China said in the brief statement.

Sands China confirmed at the start of this month that it was under a US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation after its sacked head alleged he was told to spy on government officials in the Asian gambling hub.

The firm was being probed under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits US companies from bribing foreign officials, and carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.

It followed a similar investigation by the US Department of Justice into the company, which has shifted the focus of its business away from the stagnant US market to Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub.

It was not immediately clear whether the Hong Kong investigation is linked to the US action.

Sands has said the US investigation “emanated” from a wrongful termination lawsuit filed in October by the sacked chief executive of its Macau unit, Steven Jacobs, who claimed the US operator’s billionaire founder Sheldon Adelson made “repeated and outrageous demands” on him.

Those demands included arranging “secret investigations” of Macau officials to use as leverage against negative policy decisions and threatening to withhold business from “prominent Chinese banks” if they refused to use “influence” on senior officials.

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