Some of the methods Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators, according to people familiar with both inquiries.
The company's general counsel and an outside law firm warned that the arrangement could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is unknown whether Adelson was aware of these warnings. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bars American companies from paying foreign officials to "affect or influence any act or decision" for business gain.
The internal Las Vegas Sands documents were obtained by reporters working for the University of California's Investigative Reporting Program as part of an ongoing collaboration with ProPublica and PBS Frontline. The documents shed new light on an issue separate from Alves' work: the company's difficulties in avoiding contact with Chinese organized crime figures as it built its casino business in Macau.
Gambling is illegal in mainland China, as is the transfer of large sums of money to Macau. The junkets solve those problems, providing billions of dollars in credit to gamblers. When necessary, they collect gambling debts, a critical function since China's courts are not permitted to force losers to pay up. Weidner said junkets are a natural result of China's controls on the movement of money out of the country, channeling as much as $3 billion a month from the mainland to Macau. "To Westerners, the junkets mean money laundering equated with organized crime or drugs," he said. "In China where money is controlled, it's part of doing business."
Allegations about the company's dealings with Alves as well as its purported ties to organized crime are prominently mentioned in a 2010 lawsuit filed by Steven Jacobs, former CEO of Sands China.
"Maybe in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American political campaign," said McCain, an Arizona Republican.
Discussion about Adelson's motivation for backing the Republican Party usually rotates around two things: his support for Israel's government and his opposition to labor unions. But a new investigation finds that there may be a third motivation: saving himself from a Department of Justice investigation.
Prostitution is legal in Macau. But in the email, Jacobs told top Las Vegas Sands executive Michael Leven that before beginning a planned crackdown on soliciting for sex on the casino floor at Sands Macau properties, he wanted to make sure Adelson agreed. Jacobs said in the email that another executive told him Adelson personally approved allowing prostitution "as it would help our overall gaming revenue."