JP Morgan, casino in $19m legal row
Bank held funds allegedly stolen and gambled away
Owners of Hong Kong's Omar III floating casino are involved in a dispute with banking group JP Morgan Chase over who should pay the $19 million believed to have been stolen from an Australian pension fund and gambled aboard the ship.
Australian police have charged six men with conspiring to launder A$150 million (HK$895 million) stolen from the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme the bank held in trust on Christmas Eve in 2000. All six have been granted bail.
Police allege the six men attempted a series of transactions to pass on the money to bank accounts in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Greece.
All the money has been recovered aside from the sum squandered in the casino.
Two of the men, disability pensioner Alexander Roizman, 50, and Jian Ping Wang, 39, are said to have transferred HK$150 million into the casino's HSBC account shortly afterwards and spent the night gambling, losing HK$19 million.
In the morning the pair tried to withdraw the remaining money, police said, but the transaction was stopped by quick-thinking casino staff, who contacted HSBC about the money.
'We were informed by the bank that there was something funny going on,' said the lawyer for the floating casino company, Koson Holdings, yesterday.
'We then reported the incident to the police at the first opportunity.'
Mr Ha said the casino's tip-off to the police ensured more of the money did not vanish. At no time have police suspected the casino of wrongdoing.
There is also no suggestion Australian police, who carried out an 18-month investigation, will take legal action against the casino to reclaim the money.
'We were the first party involved in this to report it to the police,' he said. 'Fortunately, we were able to reduce what was lost from HK$150 million to under $20 million.'
But the casino and JP Morgan Chase are still disputing who should pay for the money lost on the tables.
The two parties have been locked in litigation about the missing money since the transaction was reported.
Casino programme manager Alex Sung said it was extremely rare for such a large amount of stolen money to be laundered on the floating casino.