LAS VEGAS • Casino operator Las Vegas Sands agreed to pay a US$6.96 million (S$9.9 million) criminal penalty to end a United States Department of Justice probe into whether it violated a federal anti-bribery law by making payments to a consultant to help it do business in China and Macau.
On Thursday, it also entered into a non-prosecution agreement, in which it admitted executives knowingly failed to set up accounting controls to ensure that the payments were legitimate and properly recorded in its books and records.
From 2006 to 2009, Las Vegas Sands, run by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, transferred about US$60 million to the consultant to promote its business and brands, and paid him about US$5.8 million without any "discernible legitimate business purpose", according to settlement papers.
The resolution of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case follows a related US$9 million civil settlement last year with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over the firm's dealings with the consultant.
Investigators said the consultant was used in part to conceal efforts to buy a team in the Chinese Basketball Association, which barred gaming companies from ownership, and part of a building in Beijing, despite a casino gambling ban there.
The fine is 25 per cent below the minimum recommended under federal guidelines, in part reflecting Las Vegas Sands' cooperation and "extensive" remedial measures, including revamped compliance controls, said the Justice Department.
Company spokesman Ron Reese said in an e-mail to Reuters: "The company is pleased that its cooperation and long-term commitment to compliance were recognised in reaching this resolution. We are equally pleased that all inquiries related to these issues have now been completely resolved."
Mr Adelson, 83, was not accused of wrongdoing. Forbes puts his net worth at US$31 billion. The company's properties include the Venetian in Macau and Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.