It's blackmail and extortion, says Sands casino chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2011, 12:00am

A lawsuit filed by the sacked head of Las Vegas Sands' Macau subsidiary amounts to blackmail and extortion, Sands chairman and chief executive Sheldon Adelson said yesterday.

In his strongest comments yet on the suit filed by former Sands China chief executive Steven Jacobs against his former employer, Adelson lashed out at the allegations which have triggered ongoing investigations of Las Vegas Sands by US government agencies related to the company's compliance with anti-bribery laws.

'When the smoke clears I am absolutely a thousand per cent positive that there won't be any fire below it,' Adelson said of the investigations while attending a JPMorgan investors' conference in Las Vegas.

'What they'll find is a foundation of lies and fabrications that were designed for the sole purpose of trying to make a settlement for a lot more money than what [Jacobs] felt he was entitled to,' he said.

Jacobs sued Las Vegas Sands in a Las Vegas court in October seeking severance pay and stock options worth around US$10 million. His legal complaint alleges that he was fired 'without cause' last summer after resisting Adelson's 'repeated and outrageous demands' that he 'use improper 'leverage' against senior government officials of Macau' in order to win favourable treatment of Sands' development plans.

Adelson also allegedly demanded that the company continue using the services of Macau lawyer Leonel Alves, who is also a member of the city's Executive Council or local-level cabinet. This was allegedly despite Jacobs' concerns that employing Alves might risk violating provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which bans US entities from making payments to foreign government officials in order to win business or receive other favourable treatment.

Las Vegas Sands announced last month it was being investigated by the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission over the firm's compliance with the FCPA. Reuters later reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was also investigating the matter.

In his comments this week, Adelson lambasted Jacobs' suit. 'I suppose that the attorney for Jacobs thinks he is going to go over to [former Macau chief executive] Edmund Ho [Hau-wah] and say, 'Did Adelson bribe you?' And Edmund Ho is going to say 'Yes',' Adelson said mockingly.

'And then he'll go to [Macau Chief Executive Dr] Fernando Chui [Sai-on] and [Secretary for Economics and Finance] Francis Tam [Pak-yuen] and say, 'Has Adelson bribed you?' 'Oh yes, he bribed me.' This is not a serious case. It's pure threatening and blackmail and extortion. That's what it's all about,' Adelson said.

Adelson, ranked this month by Forbes as the world's 16th richest person with a net worth of US$23.3 billion, is the chairman and ultimate controlling shareholder of both Las Vegas Sands and its subsidiary Sands China. Sands China owns the Venetian, Sands and Four Seasons casino resorts in Macau and is building a new US$4 billion Cotai strip complex.

Adelson said the US investigation into Las Vegas Sands began a week ago, and that his lawyers told him it should take around four to six months.

'We'll give them the key to the office and they can come in to check anything out,' he said. 'They want to get all of my e-mails. What they don't understand is I don't have a computer. And I don't use e-mails. I'm not an e-mail type of person,' he joked.

Sands China in January filed a criminal defamation action against Jacobs in a Macau court. Jacobs earlier this month added a claim of defamation to his ongoing breach of contract suit, following comments Adelson made in the press. The Las Vegas court has scheduled a mandatory hearing on April 22 to explore a settlement between the parties.

'I'm not optimistic there will be a settlement. But we'll go through the motions,' Adelson said at the investors' forum. 'I do expect [Jacobs] to come out and say some other wrong things to put blame on me, because I'm the guy that's easy to put pressure on,' he added.