Macau billionaire Ng Lap-seng's US case takes new turn with confidential report on his background

'Confidential' report detailing detained Macau billionaire Ng Lap-seng's background and complex connections published by a top US university

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 October, 2015, 3:27am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 October, 2015, 10:43am

The arrest of a Macau real estate mogul with high-level connections to Beijing and Washington has taken a new twist with the publication by a top American university of a "confidential" report on his background.

As billionaire Ng Lap-seng - along with his assistant Jeff Yin - remains in detention in New York after his September 19 arrest on suspicion of bringing US$4.5 million in cash into the United States over the past two years and lying to customs officials about how the money would be used, a secret report detailing his background and myriad connections has come under scrutiny.

Ng, 68, was part of the 100-strong Beijing-appointed committee that oversaw the Macau handover to Chinese rule in December 1999. Some years earlier, Ng was linked to a scandal surrounding Asian funding for then US president Bill Clinton's Democratic Party.

The 52-page report, entitled "Final Report on a Discreet Due Diligence Investigation into Ng Lap Seng in Macau and Hong Kong", was compiled in 2010 on the request of Macau casino operator Las Vegas Sands and completed by International Risk Limited - whose CEO and president at the time was former senior Hong Kong police officer Steve Vickers.

The University of California, Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Programme released the report along with others relating to Las Vegas Sands and its business practices in Macau. The documents, that include internal e-mails and reports, are part of an ongoing legal case.

According to the university, the documents, obtained at a Las Vegas courthouse, have since been sealed.

The publication - stoutly defended by UC Berkeley as being in line with US legal procedures - has been described as "very troublesome" by Vickers, who is now CEO of Steve Vickers and Associates, a specialist political and corporate risk consultancy.

Vickers said that for legal reasons, he was not in a position to comment on the contents of the report.

However, he said: "Nothing has changed in my mind as to the accuracy of the report."

He added: "I have no involvement in the leakage of the reports by the US courts."

Last night, Lowell Bergman, of the UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Programme, said: "No one 'leaked' anything to us. We just observed the public proceedings and when we saw the documents were on file, we asked for copies. It was that simple."

Kevin Tung, Ng's lawyer in the US, told the Sunday Morning Post: "Please take notice that none of the allegations contained in the report is part of the criminal complaint against our client in the United States.

"All of those allegations are hearsay statements, not even admissible in the court in the United States.

"People can say what they want to say, subject to defamation claim. Therefore, I would not have any comment on those unsubstantiated allegations.

"We have a court system here in the United States. People are presumed innocent. The jury is in the court room to determine whether someone is guilty of committing a crime, not in the news media."

Additional reporting by Niall Fraser