Efforts by Las Vegas Sands Corp. to help Beijing win the rights to host the 2008 Summer Olympics again took center stage Wednesday in a Hong Kong businessman’s lawsuit against the casino company.
Richard Suen told a Clark County District Court jury that Las Vegas Sands Corp. President Bill Weidner bragged about company Chairman Sheldon Adelson helping kill a congressional measure aimed at stopping Beijing from winning the games.
“He said it was a done deal. Mr. Weidner said to me that ‘Sheldon’s got it fixed,’ ” Suen told jurors, recalling a July 2001 telephone call between Adelson and then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay about a potential bipartisan resolution seeking to block China from getting the Olympics.
Suen was traveling with Adelson and Weidner in Beijing to a meeting he had arranged with the city’s mayor when the phone call was made. He said Adelson told him he had just gotten off the phone with DeLay and the legislation wouldn’t reach the House floor in time to stop the Olympic vote or it would be killed altogether.
“The mayor said ‘thank you’ to Mr. Adelson for your help on the Olympics and Mr. Adelson went into an explanation of what he did,” Suen testified.
Suen’s testimony differed from that of Adelson’s and Weidner’s comments made earlier in the nearly two-week-long trial. Adelson, according to his testimony, said he didn’t ask DeLay to do anything that would go against his beliefs. Weidner said the efforts by Las Vegas Sands became “an urban legend that we created” and he downplayed the company’s role.
Suen said he talked with Adelson about Beijing’s Olympics bid within hours after the Sands executive arrived in China in July 2001, much earlier than what Adelson had testified.
The efforts by Las Vegas Sands to help Beijing win its Olympics bid have become a key sticking point in the trial. Attorneys for Suen contend that his efforts in setting up a series of July 2001 meetings in the Chinese capital between government leaders and Las Vegas Sands executives played a role in the company winning a shared Macau gambling concession in 2002. Suen claims the company owes him millions of dollars for his work.
The Review-Journal reported last week that Shannon Flaherty, a spokeswoman for DeLay, said the former congressman didn’t have any hand in blocking the bipartisan resolution. She said DeLay didn’t recall whether the phone call from Adelson occurred.
Suen, taking the stand for the second day, recalled how he met three times with Adelson in 2000, twice in Hong Kong and once in Macau, and the casino boss quickly became interested in the potential gambling opportunities in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.
Adelson dispatched Weidner and Sands Executive Vice President Brad Stone to check out Macau in late 2000 with Suen acting as their tour guide. Suen said both Sands executives had the same reaction after they spent 15 to 20 minutes watching gamblers inside the Lisboa, which at the time was Macau’s largest casino.
“The both said it’s like a license to print money,” Suen said.
Suen told jurors he and his associates came to Las Vegas to meet with Adelson and other Sands executives in 2000 about a potential bid for a Macau casino. He said Chinese government officials would be interested in learning about Adelson’s American political connections. While in Las Vegas, Adelson gave Suen a tour of his office, which was lined with photographs of current and former U.S. government officials. Adelson told Suen, according to testimony, that he was a large financial supporter of the Republican Party.
“(China) is very politically driven,” Suen said. “China is always interested in making connections with people who are politically connected.”
Suen said he wanted to get Adelson and Las Vegas Sands in front of key Chinese government officials who might be impressed by Adelson’s background in owning the large Comdex computer tradeshow, which he sold in the 1990s.
Suen testified that he was surprised to learn in June 2001 that Adelson had met with Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho about a month earlier. He said Adelson told him in a phone conversation that the meeting did not go well because Ho did not want Adelson to build a large hotel-casino project.
“Mr. Adelson was concerned about the gangsters and prostitution in Macau and Edmund Ho told him, ‘The gangsters and prostitutes are my citizens also,’ ” Suen said.
Suen is expected to be on the witness stand today.
Jurors are also expected to hear testimony this week from Jorge Oliveira, the commissioner of legal affairs for the Macau Gaming Commission. According to previous testimony, Oliveira is the Macau official who decided to allow Las Vegas Sands to break off its agreement with Hong Kong-based Galaxy Entertainment and earn a subconcession, which had all the same rights of a casino concession.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871.