A shareholder of US-based Wynn Resorts Ltd. has asked Macau’s land bureau to make available all public records on former chief executive Edmund Ho’s involvement in a land deal that is under investigation by the city’s graft buster.
The land deal involves a US$50 million payment Wynn Resorts made to a little-known Macau firm to secure a land parcel in Cotai for its US$4 billion casino-resort project Wynn Palace, which is expected to open in 2016.
Wynn Resorts disclosed the deal in a filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2009, saying that it had agreed to pay US$50 million to Tien Chiao Entertainment Ltd. for the “relinquishment of certain rights with respect to its business interests”.
Steve Wynn, chairman of the casino operator, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview in 2012 that the payment was made after Edmund Ho Hau-wah, Macau’s first chief executive after the city’s handover to Chinese rule, said that the land plot had been earmarked for Ho Ho, purported owner of Tien Chiao.
However, the Journal was unable to locate records showing the land was ever owned by Ho Ho. In fact, Wynn Resorts’ contract for the land shows Wynn as its first official owner.
Ho Ho couldn’t be located. He is believed to have no relations with Edmund Ho.
The media reports raised corruption speculation, prompting US-based International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), a union and a shareholder of Wynn Resorts, to take action two months ago.
In July IUOE submitted official requests to Macau’s current chief executive Fernando Chui Sai-on and the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau to make available all official documents exchanged between government bodies and Tien Chiao, Ho Ho and related parties.
The land bureau said its records of the deal had no information about Tien Chiao, while the Macau Chief Executive Office has not responded to the request.
Following the media exposure, Macau’s Commission Against Corruption formed a task force to investigate the deal.
Michael Weaver, Wynn Resorts’ senior vice president of marketing, cited Steve Wynn’s previous statements that the land deal complied with US anti-bribery laws.
In a statement released on Thursday, IUOE said in light of the chief executive Chui’s failure to respond to its initial request, it is submitting a second records request to the land bureau, this time asking for any documents covering communications with and references to Edmund Ho regarding the Cotai land in question within 10 business days.
“If the chief executive continues to act in an unresponsive manner, we at least hope to gain some greater insight into Edmund Ho’s communications with the land bureau as it relates to the Cotai parcel,” IUOE representative Jeffrey Fiedler said.
“Based on this absence of documentation, it remains unclear to us why Wynn Resorts felt obligated to pay US$50 million to a group with land rights not acknowledged by Macau’s land bureau and so far not disclosed to the public by the Chief Executive’s Office,” he added.
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