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Australian financial watchdog sues 11 executives of The Star

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has commenced civil penalty proceedings against 11 directors and officers of The Star Entertainment Group.

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ASIC’s case, which involves former Chair John O’Neill and the current Chair Ben Heap, alleges the board members approved the expansion of The Star's relationship with individuals with reported criminal links, rather than addressing money laundering risks.

Heap has since stated that he intends to contest the allegations.

The proceedings involving alleged money laundering protocol breaches also involve Matthias Bekier, Kathleen Lahey, Richard Sheppard, Gerard Bradley, Sally Pitkin and Zlatko Todorcevski, who were members of the operator’s board between 2017 and 2019.

The case by Australia’s financial watchdog also alleges that Bekier and executives Paula Martin, a former Company Secretary and Group General Counsel, and Greg Hawkins, the former Chief Casino Officer, breached their duties by not adequately addressing the money laundering risks that came with dealing with Asian gambling junket Suncity.

ASIC claims The Star continued to operate with Suncity despite being aware of the reported criminal links, while also alleging that board members did not take appropriate action when provided with information about money laundering links.

Commenting on the ASIC proceedings, The Star stated: “The Star Entertainment Group Limited notes that civil proceedings have been commenced by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in the Federal Court against a number of current and former directors and former executives of The Star. 

“The proceedings allege contraventions of section 180(1) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) in relation to certain matters investigated by ASIC and previously considered by Mr Adam Bell SC in New South Wales and by Mr Robert Gotterson AO KC in Queensland.

“Mr Ben Heap and Ms Katie Lahey are the current directors subject to these proceedings. They have supported The Star’s Board renewal plans announced earlier this year and will step down once additional directors are appointed, and appropriate transition arrangements are in place.”

The proceedings come after The Star was hit with AU$100m (US$67.6m) in fines by the Queensland Government last week following ‘major failings’ at its casinos.

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