Opening arguments in a $328 million lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands casino mogul Sheldon Adelson begin in Las Vegas today, says Bloomberg.
At question is how Adelson built his multi-billion dollar empire in Asia, specifically in gambling hot spot, Macau.
This trial really goes back to 2008 when Richard Suen, a Hong Kong businessman, alleged that Las Vegas Sands agreed to pay him and his associates $5 million and 2 per cent of the net income from the company’s Macau casinos if they persuaded the Macau Special Administrative Region to award the company a licence to operate in the former Portuguese colony in 2002.
At the end of the 2008 trial, a Las Vegas jury awarded Suen $43.8 million but that decision was overturned by an appeals Court because the judge had allowed “so- called hearsay evidence” to be considered during the trial.
Now Suen is seeking $98 million in past damages and $230 million in future damages based on Las Vegas Sands’s profit from its Macau casino resorts, Bloomberg reports.
Suen isn’t the only one suing Adelson for alleged bribery, though. Asian American Entertainment Corp. is also suing Las Vegas Sands over its dealings in Macau to the tune of $376 million.
Former Sands China CEO Steven Jacobs is also suing the company, alleging that he was fired when he would not engage in inappropriate conduct and use “improper leverage” against Chinese officials.
Las month, in Las Vegas Sands’ latest regulatory report to the SEC, the company admitted that it may have violated anti-bribery laws.Specifically, the filing said that “there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions.”
Now here’s the thing: $376 million is a drop in the bucket to Adelson, who threw $20 million of his own personal wealth at the 2012 U.S. Presidential election without even batting an eye. Bloomberg estimates that he’s the 17th richest person in world with a net worth of $26.4 billion.
What’s really at issue here isn’t money, it’s Las Vegas Sands’ potential violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The law bars American companies from bribing officials overseas for business (from the Department of Justice):
…Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.
The Las Vegas Sands has three casinos in Macau, so if Suen wins this lawsuit, it could open the floodgates to dealings that began in 2001 when the Macau government invited bids for casino concessions for the first time.