Judge asked to unseal reports on alleged Sands ties to Macau organized crime

Photo: David Becker/Las Vegas Review-Journal


Two organizations have asked a Clark County district judge to unseal documents that could reveal business ties between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and high-ranking members of Chinese triads.

Guardian News & Media, publisher of the British newspaper The Guardian, and the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit watchdog organization, have filed separate motions to intervene and unseal records in the wrongful termination case filed by Steven Jacobs against Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd.

The Guardian’s motion, filed May 29, asks Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to unseal Exhibit 1100, also known as the Vickers Reports. The newspaper argues the public has a First Amendment right to access the reports, which were compiled by former Hong Kong police official Steve Vickers.

“While this case is docketed as a wrongful termination suit, the arguments in the course of litigation have gone far beyond any typical employment dispute, reaching matters of intense public interest that include accusations of corruption and ties to organized crime in China,” the motion alleges.

The reports, according to the motion, “reportedly explore possible business ties between Sands companies and Cheung Chi Tai and Heung Wah Keung, alleged organized crime figures in China, and provide information on the backgrounds of Cheung and Keung.”

International law enforcement authorities alleged that Chinese organized crime groups, or triads, have influence over high-end junket operators, who arrange visits of big-spending gamblers to private gaming salons in Macau’s casinos.

Last year, the Chinese government instituted a crackdown on corruption and graft involving the junket operators. The crackdown is considered a primary reason Macau gaming revenue has dipped 37 percent in the past year, which includes 12 straight monthly revenue declines.

A hearing on The Guardian’s motion is scheduled for June 18. The newspaper is represented by Las Vegas attorney David Merrill.

The Campaign for Accountability filed its motion Monday. The organization is represented by Las Vegas attorney Allen Lichtenstein.

According to the group’s motion, the named parties in the case have focused on their “individual interests” in arguments about the confidentiality of the reports.

“The public interest issue has been virtually ignored,” the motion argues.

According to the motion, the organization also seeks to access the reports “to serve the compelling public interest in learning the extent to which Sheldon Adelson,” the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, “has used money acquired through criminal activity in Macau casinos to make campaign contributions to candidates for public office.”

Jacobs, former president and CEO of Sands China, filed the wrongful termination lawsuit shortly after he was fired in 2010. The case made several trips to the Nevada Supreme Court while the parties argued over jurisdiction. Gonzalez ruled last month that she has jurisdiction over Sands China.

During a hearing on the jurisdiction issue, Adelson testified that he had “at least 34 good reasons” for firing Jacobs, but Jacobs claimed he was terminated “for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”

Adelson, also a defendant in the case, claims Jacobs made false allegations to blackmail the company.

Sands China is a Cayman Islands corporation that is 70 percent owned by Las Vegas Sands, and Sands China is publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter:@CarriGeer