With the United States on knife-edge as the first results roll in arguably the most controversial race for the White House in the country’s history, new details have emerged of attempts Republican candidate Donald Trump made to get on at the ground floor of Macau’s gaming revolution in 2001.
Reports in Macau and US media outlets have stated that Trump “crossed paths” with a billionaire Macau businessman currently under house arrest in New York as part of an FBI investigation into corruption at the highest levels of the United Nations, while making a bid with other investors for one of the three gaming licences that were up for grabs in 2001.
Last week The Wall Street Journal reported that the Macau billionaire in question, Ng Lap Seng, who has high-level connections to both Washington and Beijng, joined Trump and other investors in a 2001 bid for one of three Macau casino licences then being made available.
The projected deal would have seen the Republican candidate’s Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts Holdings operate a casino out of Ng’s existing Fortuna Casino and Hotel property on behalf of a Macau firm named Baia Da Nossa Senhora Entertainment Company, whose shareholders included several other local billionaires and their associates.
The consortium had committed to investing about US$1.4 billion as part of the project although Ng eventually failed to gain one of the new licenses with the Fortuna Casino and Hotel, which was at the time popular with Chinese military personnel.
Other partners in the proposed deal included Joseph Lau, the Hong Kong property developer who has been on the run since 2014 after being convicted in absentia of corruption in Macau and sentenced to more than five years in prison. Lau also made news last year after paying a world-record US$48 million in Geneva for a 12.03-carat blue diamond that he subsequently renamed after his young daughter, Josephine.
However, sources have told This Week in Asia that in 2007, in a deal connected to the failed 2001 casino bid, the Trump organisation wanted to manage a hotel development on a parcel of land next to Macau’s Cotai Strip which also fell through.
That hugely lucrative plot of land has subsequently become highly controversial in Macau and is subject to an ongoing probe by the city’s Commission Against Corruption over allegedly suspicious land-swap deals surrounding it. There is no suggestion of any wrong doing by the Trump organisation or Donald Trump in conection with the probe.
“The whole point of potentially brining in people like Trump in those very early days was that Macau simply didn’t have the experience to run something on the scale that was planned. He was someone who did, but didn’t get the gig,” the source said
Ng, 68, is currently under house arrest in New York on a US$50 million bond after being charged by federal authorities in September of 2015 with bribing a now-deceased United Nations diplomat. Ng denies all the charges against him.
Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton’s links to Ng have been widely reported in the past and go back to the 1990s when Congressional reports emerged detailing his alleged role in a scheme that had illegally funnelled foreign money to the Democratic National Committee for President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign.
Although the Macau-based billionaire was never charged in the matter, US lawmakers claimed he had ties with local criminal gangs, which were never substantiated.
Ng was alleged to have donated cash to the Democratic National Committee via friend Charlie Trie and was subsequently invited to exclusive events such as a 1994 presidential gala in Washington, DC, where he had his photograph taken with President Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
The Clintons were never implicated in the scandal but Trie ended up pleading guilty to campaign-finance violations while administration officials faced accusations from Republican members of Congress that they had been too loose with their donation protocols.