The recently departed Managing Director and CEO of Star Entertainment Group has told an inquiry into the company’s suitability to retain its NSW casino license that he was let down by the senior team in charge of its VIP operations.
Fronting public hearings on Monday in the wake of recent media allegations surrounding Star’s relationship with Asian junket promoters, Matt Bekier said he accepted responsibility for the fact that unethical behavior had taken place under his watch, including the illegal use of China Union Pay cards to disguise gambling transactions and allowing leading junket Suncity Group to operate its own VIP room at The Star Sydney.
“As CEO I was accountable and responsible for all parts of the company,” said Bekier, who resigned his position in March.
However, Bekier also blamed his staff for failing to keep him updated on processes within the international VIP segment.
“When it came to the VIP-related matters … I had a failure of the first and the second line of defence,” he said. “I feel let down by people in the risk team and people in the VIP team.”
Bekier also insisted it was difficult for the Board of Directors to have any great knowledge of the actions of its VIP team.
“It was very hard for the board to form [such a] view,” he said. “I didn’t think the business was out of control, and if I didn’t see those problems I’m not sure the board could have seen them.
“If the board of directors had known about any of these things, they would have supported me in shutting down that part of the business a long time ago.”
Bekier defended the culture of Star Entertainment Group as a whole, describing it as “very good”. Instead, he said he was “let down” by a subculture that was exclusive to the “dark art” of acquiring international high rollers.
“It’s essentially dealing with VIP customers … because it seemed like a bit of a dark art, we didn’t challenge them. I didn’t challenge them,” Bekier said.
“The dark art of acquiring customers, to convince them to fly long range and gamble in our casinos … settle and collect the money. That’s very different from the rest of our business.
“It’s a very specialist area [and I was] quite comfortable letting people with a lot of experience deal with that part of the business. Unfortunately it looks like the systems and standards and expectations that we have for everything else in the company somehow weren’t applied.”
Asked why Star had engaged in certain practices, such as using China Union Pay cards to disguise gambling transactions, Bekier admitted that this was standard industry practice. However, he denied suggestions that he had refuted the findings of a KPMG report which had found evidence of serious AML failings within the company’s VIP operations.