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Las Vegas Sands casino to pay $47.4 mln to end federal probe

Las Vegas Sands Corp, The Venetian.
Ricky Barnard | Wikipedia
Las Vegas Sands Corp, The Venetian.

The Las Vegas Sands agreed to return $47.4 million to the U.S. Treasury to end a probe into the casino's failure to alert authorities to suspicious deposits by a high-rolling gambler, federal officials said on Tuesday.

Sands, the operator of the Venetian and Palazzo hotel complex in Las Vegas, accepted wire transfers and cashier's checks between 2005 and 2007 from Zhenli Ye Gon and should have reported the transactions as suspicious, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

By the end of 2006 or early 2007, Ye Gon was "the largest all-cash, up-front gambler the Venetian-Palazzo had ever had to that point," according to the non-prosecution agreement.

In March 2007, Ye Gon's residence in Mexico City was searched by law enforcement authorities, who seized about $207 million in U.S. currency, the largest-ever currency seizure.

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Ye Gon is currently awaiting extradition to Mexico, which has charged him with drug trafficking, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The federal government agreed not to prosecute Sands based on the company's cooperation, according to an Aug. 26 letter to Sands from Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Rosenberg that Reuters obtained.

"The company cooperated fully and that effort was clearly recognized by the government," said Ron Reese, spokesman for the Las Vegas Sands. The casino company is controlled by founder and billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

The Bank Secrecy Act requires casinos with annual revenue of at least $1 million to file suspicious activity reports, which are used by government agencies.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office said this was the first time a casino has agreed to return those funds to the government.

Separately, Sands in March disclosed it had "likely" violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which outlaws the bribery of foreign officials.

In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the casino operator, said the SEC subpoenaed company documents in February 2011 relating to its compliance with the antibribery act while the U.S. Department of Justice also advised Sands it was conducting an investigation.

Reese said the FCPA investigation is still ongoing and that the company was cooperating.

Sands said in the filing that the issue would have no material impact on the company's financial records and that it would not need to restate any past financial statements.

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