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EUROVEGAS

Madrid PP defends Las Vegas Sands following US laundering settlement

Casino company settles with US American after year-long criminal investigation

The justice chief and Popular Party spokesman for the Madrid region, Salvador Victoria, has said the regional assembly's confidence in Las Vegas Sands, the company behind the Eurovegas casino project in the Spanish capital, is "absolute" after the US firm paid 35 million euros to the authorities to settle a money-laundering investigation.

According to Victoria, the District Attorney's Office in Los Angeles has recognized "the complete cooperation" of Las Vegas Sands in "uncovering and regularizing" money that was allegedly laundered through its casinos in Las Vegas. Victoria said that the case shows the company's "commitment to the fight against fraud. And I am not saying this, the United States authorities are."

According to prosecutors in Los Angeles, Las Vegas Sands reached an agreement with federal authorities on Monday over the year-long criminal investigation against its casinos for receiving money in "suspicious circumstances." The source of the illicit money was Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese national with Mexican citizenship and a suspected supplier of raw materials for the production of methamphetamine.

Zhenli was at the time the biggest player at the Venetian Casino in Vegas, depositing sums that had never been seen before in the history of Las Vegas Sands. Between 2005 and 2007, Zhenli transferred 33 million euros to casinos owned by Las Vegas Sands and a further nine million euros through checks. The money was transferred through two banks and seven money exchange companies in Mexico.

Extradition

US law obliges casinos that receive more than a million dollars to inform the authorities if they "know, suspect or have reason to suspect" that the client is involved in illicit activity. Agents working on the investigation, launched in August 2012, said that Zhenli had admitted to casino employees that he was making the transfers bit by bit to avoid police scrutiny.

When Zhenli's Mexico City home was searched in 2007, police recovered a record amount of cash: the equivalent of 155 million euros. He is awaiting extradition to Mexico to face drugs charges after the case against him in the US was dismissed. Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson is in negotiations with the Madrid regional government to build a massive casino complex in Alcorcón.

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