The court has ruled in favor of Casino operator Melco Resorts & Entertainment (MRE) who challenged an Australian gambling regulator’s claim for specific company documents.
The New South Wales Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, that the NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (ILGA) did not have the legal authority to force MRE to produce documents detailing MRE CEO Lawrence Ho’s associations to companies connected to his father Stanley.
As reported by calvinayre.com, last year the ILGA launched its inquiry after MRE made a deal to purchase an almost 20% stake in Australian casino operator Crown Resorts. Earlier, NSW regulators had imposed a clause on Crown’s Sydney casino project that the company have no transactions with Stanley Ho due to his suspected ties to Hong Kong triads.
When the ILGA found out that Lawrence Ho worked in director positions in companies connected to Stanley, it started an inquiry into Lawrence’s suitability. After acquiring the first 10% tranche, MRE paused its Crown contract ; however, announced last week that it no longer wanted the remaining 10%, saying it needed to concentrate on its current operations in Macau and the Philippines as the coronavirus catastrophe continues.
MRE filed its legal challenge of the ILGA’s document hunt one day before that announcement, claiming that the documents were protected by attorney-client privilege. MRE also asked whether the ILGA could implement aspects of Australian law which would allow the regulator to overrule such privileges.
NSW Supreme Court Justice Christine Adamson sided with MRE on Tuesday, saying the NSW parliament hadn’t particularly given the ILGA the authority allowed under the Royal Commission Act and the courts “ought not be left to guess” as to parliament’s aims. MRE’s legal privileges as such, “are not abrogated for the purposes of an inquiry.”
MRE’s decision to relinquish acquiring other Crown shares also included the company giving up its right to add directors to Crown’s board. Therefore the ILGA will have no need to investigate the suitability of these MRE executives. The regulator was “considering today’s court judgment and how it may impact the running of the inquiry,” said an ILGA spokesman.