Two organizations have asked a Clark County district judge to unseal documents that could reveal business ties between Las Vegas Sands Corp. and high-ranking members of Chinese triads.
Guardian News & Media, publisher of the British newspaper The Guardian, and the Campaign for Accountability, a new nonprofit watchdog organization, have filed separate motions to intervene and unseal records in the wrongful termination case brought by Steven Jacobs against Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd.
The organizations have specifically asked Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez to unseal Exhibit 1100, also known as the Vickers Reports. The reports were compiled by private investigator Steve Vickers, a former Hong Kong police official.
Both motions argue that the reports involve matters of extreme public interest: possible business ties between Sands companies and Cheung Chi Tai and Heung Wah Keung, alleged organized crime figures in China.
According to the Campaign for Accountability, which filed its motion Monday, the group seeks to access the reports “to serve the compelling public interest in learning the extent to which Sheldon Adelson,” the billionaire chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, “has used money acquired through criminal activity in Macau casinos to make campaign contributions to candidates for public office.”
The organization is represented by Las Vegas attorney Allen Lichtenstein.
CRIME TRIADS A CONCERN
Attorneys representing Adelson and Las Vegas Sands could not be reached Tuesday. Randall Jones, attorney for Sands China, and Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese declined to comment on the motions.
International law enforcement authorities alleged that Chinese organized crime groups, or triads, have influence over high-end junket operators who arrange visits of big-spending gamblers to private gaming salons in Macau’s casinos.
Last year, the Chinese government cracked down on corruption and graft involving the junket operators. The move is considered a primary reason Macau gaming revenue has dipped 37 percent in the past year, which includes 12 straight monthly revenue declines.
“Given the extent to which Adelson’s wealth derives from his Macau casinos — and the extent to which the Macau casinos derive their profits from the junkets, which are controlled by the triads and are heavily involved in money laundering — it is quite possible Macau organized crime funds have wound up in the coffers of candidates for federal office and/or in the treasuries of so-called dark money groups supporting them,” according to the motion filed by the watchdog group.
The document notes that U.S. law prohibits foreign nationals from directly or indirectly making contributions in federal, state or local elections.
“Adelson was the largest single donor funding the 2012 presidential race and has indicated he will spend significant amounts in the 2016 race,” according to the motion. “He is so avidly courted by Republican presidential aspirants that the press frequently refers to the efforts to secure his financial backing as the ‘Adelson primary.’”
The document cites The Huffington Post, which reported that Adelson may have spent as much as $150 million in an effort to unseat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.
“Access to the requested documents will inform and enhance public awareness of Mr. Adelson’s role in electoral politics and provide the transparency necessary for the public to hold responsible the officials and candidates for public office who accept his money,” the watchdog group argues in its motion.
According to the document, the parties in the case have focused on their “individual interests” in arguments about the confidentiality of the reports.
“The public interest issue has been virtually ignored,” the motion contends.
MORE THAN A TERMINATION DISPUTE
Guardian News & Media is described in its motion as a Delaware limited liability company. In addition to the daily newspaper, the company publishes theguardian.com, which the website describes as the world’s second-largest English-language newspaper website.
The company’s motion, filed May 29, argues that the public has a First Amendment right to access the Vickers Reports.
“While this case is docketed as a wrongful termination suit, the arguments in the course of litigation have gone far beyond any typical employment dispute, reaching matters of intense public interest that include accusations of corruption and ties to organized crime in China,” the motion alleges.
A hearing on The Guardian’s motion is set for June 18. The newspaper is represented by Las Vegas attorney David Merrill.
According to the motion, neither the parties nor the judge have “articulated any compelling reasons for” keeping the Vickers Reports under seal.
“How a publicly traded Nevada corporation is operating, including its influence of or by foreign entities, is of utmost public interest,” the motion argues. “The public has a right to see the contents of these reports, not only to allow it to evaluate this public corporation and its official oversight, but also to help it assess the actions of the judicial system and its litigants.”
Jacobs, former president and CEO of Sands China, filed the wrongful termination lawsuit shortly after he was fired in 2010. The case made several trips to the Nevada Supreme Court while the parties argued over jurisdiction. Gonzalez ruled last month that she has jurisdiction over Sands China.
During a hearing on the jurisdiction issue, Adelson testified that he had “at least 34 good reasons” for firing Jacobs, but Jacobs claimed he was terminated “for blowing the whistle on improprieties and placing the interests of shareholders above those of Adelson.”
Adelson, also a defendant in the case, claims Jacobs made false allegations to blackmail the company.
Sands China is a Cayman Islands corporation that is 70 percent owned by Las Vegas Sands, and Sands China is publicly traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Attorney Todd Bice, who represents Jacobs, said he objected to the sealing of the Vickers Reports.
Bice said the defendants “have tried to make some sort of confidentiality claim” for nearly every document in the case.
Review-Journal reporter Howard Stutz contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at email@example.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer