The New South Wales (NSW) government has scored a major victory with an appeal in the Supreme Court. The full Supreme Court bench ruled Melco must provide documents relating to is the acquisition of Crown Resorts shares.
It was only one month ago that Melco found itself in a similar position. The casino giant was unhappy the NSW gambling regulator demanded to see specific company documents. NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) wanted to cast its eye over sensitive documents as part of its inquiry.
Those are alleged to prove there are significant ties between Melco CEO Lawrence Ho and companies linked to his controversial father Stanley Ho. Melco argued it operates 100% legally and Stanley Ho has no influence over company matters.
Melco refused to provide the LGA with the requested documents. The company stated the ILGA lacked the legal authority to force Melco’s hand.
Justice Christine Adamson of the NSW Supreme Court sided with Melco. She ruled the NSW parliament hadn’t granted ILGA the powers allowed under the Royal Commission Act.
Melco Must Show Documents Following Successful Appeal
The NSW government lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court because it wanted sight of key documents. The Supreme Court overruled the prior verdict, which means Melco must now provide the requested documents.
A statement explaining the decision read: “The court held that the primary judge erred in concluding that the Royal Commission Act did not confer a ‘power or authority’ on a commissioner [the judge heading the inquiry[, with that section extending the general power to compel the production of documents to include the power to compel the production of legally privileged documents.”
Why Does the ILGA Desperately Want to See Melco Documents?
This saga began when Melco Resorts agree to purchase 19.9% of James Packer’s holding in Crown Resorts. Lawrence Ho agreed to pay Packer $880 million for his share. Ho acquired 10% of Packer’s holding with no resistance, but the ILGA soon stepped in.
ILGA doesn’t think Lawrence Ho is a fit and proper person to hold a casino licence in Australia. Ho may have massive experience in the field but he has strong business links with his controversial father.
Stanley Ho is a casino mogul who held a monopoly on Macau’s casino sector for several years. He has links to organised crime in Hong Kong and China.
New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) investigated Stanley Ho a few of years ago. MGM Resorts wanted to operate the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. The DGE runs tests on potential gaming licence holders before rubber-stamping and deal.
It found Stanley Ho is an associate of the vicious Sun Yee On triads. MGM’s deal with Borgata collapsed following the thorough investigation.
ILGA believes Melco holds documents that highlight ties with Stanley Ho and, therefore, triad activity.
Why Is Stanley Ho The Center Of the Inquiry?
Crown Resorts is currently building a massive casino development in Barangaroo, Sydney. NSW government placed very specific terms and conditions on Crown’s casino licence.
Any new business activities or transactions of a material nature between Stanley Hung Sun Ho or a Stanley Ho associate and Crown, any of Crown’s officers, directors, or employees of any Crown subsidiary is prohibited.
Crown agreed to these terms in order to be allowed to operate a casino in Barangaroo.
Documents list 55 companies and five individuals linked to Stanley Ho. Lanceford Company Ltd is one such company. Lanceford lists Lawrence Ho as a director. He has since been removed, but his name was there when Crown signed the agreement with NSW.
Melco is guarded about these documents despite always saying it is complying with the NSW inquiry. What do the documents reveal?
It all seems fishy, but also pointless to an extent. Melco pulled out of the Packer deal last year so there’s no need to investigate this. Also, Barangaroo is nothing if the casino isn’t operating. Crown shelled out a large percentage of the $6 bill cost of the development. It won’t give up without a fight, regardless of what Melco’s documents show.