A U.S. government watchdog group has asked two federal oversight agencies to investigate billionaire Sheldon Adelson to determine if any money he donated to political campaigns in the past was illegally laundered in his foreign casinos.
Adelson, is the single biggest Republican donor in the 2012 presidential election.
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The campaign started earlier this month. Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Federal Election Commission to investigate Sheldon Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s (LVS) ties to Chinese organized crime in its Macau operations and determine whether illegally laundered foreign funds are making their way into the campaign coffers of American politicians.
In a statement released by the organization said that the Internal company documents show that LVS maintains a business relationship with a Cheung Chi Tai, identified as the leader of a triad – a Chinese organized crime ring – by the Senate committee in the early 1990s. LVS also has a relationship with Ng Lap Seng, a Chinese billionaire currently facing criminal charges in the Southern District of New York. Mr. Ng is described in a report commissioned by LVS as a member of a triad and as controlling prostitution in Macau.
CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann stated, “Sheldon Adelson is one of the largest if not the largest political donor in history. Federal authorities have long been concerned about the reach of the tentacles of Chinese organized crime. If triad money is winding up in the campaign coffers of U.S. politicians through Mr. Adelson’s contributions, the American people deserve to know it.”
U.S. government reports confirm that Macau casinos rely on the triads to supply them with highly profitable junkets of high-rolling gamblers. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission issued a report to Congress in 2013 explaining that the triads exploit the loosely regulated junket industry to launder money. LVS has been working with Cheung Chi Tai, who allegedly heads the Wo Hop To Triad. Mr. Cheung’s criminal ties have been a matter of public record for years, including his role in a murder-for-hire scheme. He is currently facing money laundering charges in Hong Kong. Although LVS has claimed to have stopped using Mr. Cheung as a junket guarantor, documents show that the company maintains the relationship.
Mr. Adelson also has connections to Mr. Ng, currently facing bribery charges in New York, and who first came to public attention for funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds to the Democratic National Committee through Charlie Trie in the 1990s. Further, the justice department alleges Mr. Ng failed to appear before a grand jury in a Las Vegas bribery case; LVS has been the subject of a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act investigation and a former LVS executive has suggested Mr. Adelson authorized a payment to a Macau legislator at Mr. Ng’s urging, despite admonitions by counsel.
Finally, two internal LVS reports show that senior executives, including Mr. Adelson, knew that the companies’ casinos served as hubs of prostitution, including underage prostitution. Nevertheless, correspondence reveals that the executives overtly tolerated and possibly even promoted prostitution so long as it did not affect profitability.
“Given the extent to which Mr. Adelson’s wealth derives from Macau and his dominant role in funding Republican candidates, it seems highly likely that illegal foreign money has made its way into American elections, ” Ms. Weismann continued. “Unfortunately for all of the candidates and causes Mr. Adelson has showered with cash, what happens in Macau doesn’t stay in Macau.”
Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese dismissed the complaints by the Campaign for Accountability as he spoke with Reuters: “a politically motivated political attack.” The group, which has lodged complaints against both Republicans and Democrats, describes itself as nonpartisan and nonprofit but conservative organizations say it has a left-wing agenda.
Reese, the Las Vegas Sands spokesman, acknowledged the company conducted business with Cheung, who guaranteed the debts of gamblers, but said it severed the relationship in 2010 after the company became aware of his background. “The company has not done any business with Cheung Chi Tai in many years, ” he told Reuters.