Echoes of Clinton-Era Scandal in a Las Vegas Sands Email

by and Lowell Bergman

On Feb. 25, 2010, the head of the Las Vegas Sands subsidiary in Macau sent a colleague an email asking for information on a Macau businessman named Ng Lap Seng.

The executive, Steven Jacobs, was trying to decide whether the company should continue retaining Leonel Alves, a local legislator and lawyer, as an outside counsel, internal documents show.

Jacobs identified Ng as “Leonel’s contact with Beijing” and said that Ng had “delivered msg. from SGA,” a reference to Sheldon G. Adelson, the company’s chairman and CEO. “Need background check,” Jacobs wrote.

The email did not describe the content of the message purportedly conveyed by Ng.

Ng’s past includes some notable items. More than a decade earlier, he had figured prominently in a U.S. political scandal, carrying hundreds of thousands dollars of cash into the United States and funneling it to Democratic candidates through a Chinese-American intermediary, a congressional investigation later found.

More than a dozen people eventually pleaded guilty to violations of federal campaign contribution laws in what was called “Donorgate.” The Clinton administration was deeply embarrassed when a photo surfaced of Ng with President Clinton. Ng was never charged in that case.

Ng, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed for this article citing his commitments to what he described as his “congressional position with China.”  He did not specifically describe the position to which he was referring.

Jacobs ultimately recommended that Las Vegas Sands cut its ties with Alves.

Adelson fired Jacobs, who sued the company in a Nevada court alleging, among other things, that he had been dismissed because he had opposed retaining Alves. The company has denied that allegation, maintaining that its dealings with Alves were proper. It has said Jacobs was fired for other reasons.

Ng was not mentioned in the original lawsuit filed by Jacobs. But in a recent filing, Jacobs asked for copies of an “investigative report” the company prepared on Ng and for any communications between Ng and Adelson.

Photo: CEO of Sand China Ltd., Steven Jacobs, attends a ceremony at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKSE) on Nov. 30, 2009 to mark the first day of trading of Sands China's initial public offering (IPO). (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
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