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The Star lent $166m to ‘swindler’ and illegal bookie

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Just one month earlier, in December 2019, The Star gave Qin a $166 million loan through a Hong Kong subsiduary called EEIS Services.

Hawkins said he also did not recall being aware of this at the time, and nor could he explain why The Star gave him a loan rather than a “cheque cashing facility” typically used to facilitate the international movement of junket funds.

“It’s not every day that a loan of $166 million is advanced to a patron, is it?” Sharp asked.

Hawkins said he could “only assume there was a request” for the loan and that relevant checks and approvals were followed.

The Star’s chief financial crimes officer, Skye Arnott, gave approval to continue dealing with Qin in February 2022. But Hawkins said he believed the relationship should cease. NSW has banned junkets in the fallout from the 2020 inquiry into Crown Resorts.

The inquiry also heard on Thursday that The Star let billionaire high-roller Phillip Dong Fang Lee use Chinese bank cards at the casino for three years after staff raised “numerous concerns” he was not gambling all of that money charged to his cards.

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The inquiry previously heard The Star disguised $900 million in gambling funds as hotel expenses so patrons could access Chinese funds on China UnionPay cards, which the lender does not allow to be used for gambling.

Lee used the cards scam to access $70 million during 2015 and 2016 and there had been “numerous concerns” from staff he was not gambling all of that money.

Speaking of the practice generally, Sharp said that it could indicate “The Star is being used as one big fat ATM machine” which raised money laundering risks by obscuring the nature of large transactions.

Hawkins said he did not consider the scheme’s money laundering risks but agreed he should have.

“Is it the case that you just didn’t care how much money he was withdrawing as long as the casino got its turnover?” Sharp asked.

“That’s not the case,” Hawkins responded.

The inquiry continues.

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