Richard Suen's claim for helping Sands in Macau to be retried
The Nevada State Supreme Court overturned a US$58.6 million judgment in favour of Hong Kong businessman Richard Suen Chi-tat for helping casino developer Las Vegas Sands win a Macau gambling licence.
In an 18-page order released on Thursday in the US, the court partly affirmed and partly reversed decisions made by a district court judge in Las Vegas in the lead-up to the 2008 jury trial of Suen's lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands. The higher court handed the case back down to the district court for a retrial.
The decision marks a partial victory for Las Vegas Sands, which last year paid US$42.5 million in a separate case to settle out of court with another group of Macau businessmen claiming to have helped it secure a gaming licence in 2002.
In the company's appeal against the Suen judgment, the state supreme court ruled the lower court had improperly admitted hearsay statements from former Las Vegas Sands president William Weidner. It also said the district court had failed to instruct the jury on presumptions of 'governmental regularity'. In a victory for Suen, the high court said his charge of breach of contract by Las Vegas Sands, originally dismissed by the district court, could proceed at the new trial.
Las Vegas Sands and its chairman Sheldon Adelson were contesting the May 2008 decision of a jury to award US$43.8 million to Suen and his Round Square Co as compensation for consulting services he provided, including arranging a meeting in Beijing in July 2001 between Adelson and then vice-premier Qian Qichen. The court later added US$14.8 million in interest payments to the jury's award.
The New York-listed firm, parent of locally listed Sands China, had made no provisions for paying the hefty sum to Suen. 'The company believes that it has valid bases in law and fact to overturn the verdict,' Las Vegas Sands said earlier this month.
Suen launched his suit in 2004 on behalf of business associates including Zhu Zhensheng, George Chang, Steven Siu and Choi Yuen Yuen. Choi arranged the meeting in Beijing between Adelson and Qian, according to court filings. Suen testified that Zhu and Choi were high-ranking People's Liberation Army members.
Suen contended he and his partners were promised a success fee equal to US$5 million plus 2 per cent of Sands' net profit in Macau. Adelson agreed that Suen should be compensated but said he could not pay him the alleged agreed success fee due to issues with the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the court documents said. Adelson offered alternative compensation that was rejected by Suen, who then sued. No date has been set for the retrial.