A person dismissed by Pacific island casino operator Best Sunshine International Ltd filed suit in a U.S. federal court on Thursday alleging illegal practices, including failure to follow anti-money laundering procedures required under U.S. law.
Best Sunshine, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd, has the right to an exclusive casino licence on Saipan, a Pacific island that is the main land mass of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. jurisdiction. The firm is currently operating a temporary casino facility – known as Best Sunshine Live (pictured) – on the island.
Bloomberg News reported on Friday – citing documents filed with the U.S. District Court in Saipan by lawyers for terminated casino manager Danny Ewing – that among other things, Imperial Pacific “failed to implement or enforce an adequate” anti-money laundering programme. The suit additionally claims that management ignored complaints and reports of violations. Mr Ewing was described as former vice president of table games at Best Sunshine Live.
Bloomberg reported that Mr Ewing’s suit stated: “Imperial Pacific was engaging in practices that were in violation of the law and contrary to the public policy of both the United States” and Saipan. In one case, the casino allegedly allowed a customer to deposit US$400,000 with the casino’s cashier without the identification required by its anti-money-laundering procedures, the suit claimed.
On Friday the Saipan Tribune newspaper reported a statement from Imperial Pacific International, in which the firm said it was not at that stage aware of the details of Mr Ewing’s allegations.
The firm stated, as quoted by the news outlet: “Nevertheless, the company respects Mr Ewing’s decision to file suit. It is the company’s position that it follows all employment laws and regulations. As a result, the company will vigorously defend all lawsuits questioning its employment and business practices.”
According to the Saipan Tribune, Mr Ewing is claiming unspecified damages for: wrongful termination in violation of public policy; wrongful failure to hire; and “intentional infliction of emotional distress”.
In November Bloomberg had reported – citing sources it didn’t identify by name – that the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, known as FinCEN – had been investigating Best Sunshine’s casino, which opened in July 2015.
But an executive of Imperial Pacific International told GGRAsia in a telephone interview several days after that story was published that it was “not possible” for the firm to facilitate any capital flight from China or elsewhere, and that it was complying with all relevant U.S. laws and regulations.
In late spring 2015 it was reported that a CNMI judge had ruled that the U.S. Department of the Treasury had the authority to regulate casinos on the Pacific archipelago.
In June 2015, FinCEN announced it had assessed a US$75 million civil financial penalty against the operators of a separate gaming property in CNMI called Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino on the island of Tinian.
FinCEN said the assessment against the Tinian property’s then operator – Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments Ltd – was for “wilful and egregious violations” of the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act.
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