GAMBLING

Wynn Resorts cleared of 'suspicion' over Macau university donation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 July, 2013, 4:22am
AP

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US federal investigators have finished looking into a US$135 million donation casino giant Wynn Resorts gave to a university in Macau, and say there is nothing suspicious about the gift.

The Securities and Exchange Commission was not pursuing enforcement action against the company, assistant director of the commission's Salt Lake regional office Karen Martinez said.

Speaking from his boat on the Spanish island of Ibiza on Monday, the company's CEO, Steve Wynn, said he never had any doubt federal investigators would clear the company.

"We were so sanguine that we never paid any attention to it; we had no exposure. It was a non-event except for the damn newspapers," he said.

The six-month federal investigation has its origins in an ongoing battle between former friends and business partners Kazuo Okada and Wynn. Okada used to be Wynn Resorts' single largest shareholder, but the company forcibly bought back his shares after it said it found that Okada made improper payments to overseas gambling regulators.

The two traded accusations of unethical or illegal conduct during an extended legal, and seemingly personal, dispute.

In a 2012 letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Okada suggested that the company's US$135 million donation to the University of Macau Development Foundation might have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act - a law that bars US companies from paying off officials to win business overseas.

He characterised the 2011 donation as "suspicious" and noted that the Development Foundation's lead trustee was also a member of the Macau government. He said that the donation coincided with Wynn's request for land to develop a third casino.

I am at a complete loss as to the business justification for the donation, other than that it was an attempt to curry favour with those that have ultimate authority for issuing gaming licenses

"I am at a complete loss as to the business justification for the donation, other than that it was an attempt to curry favour with those that have ultimate authority for issuing gaming licenses," Okada wrote.

Wynn Resorts dismissed these charges and noted that Okada himself approved the gift.

Okada is now under federal investigation himself for possible bribery in the Philippines.

A spokesman for Okada did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.