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)
blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.




Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.