Australian Gaming Company Probed for Cambodia Payment

Australian gaming firm Tabcorp on Tuesday confirmed that it was under investigation by Australian police over a possible bribe it paid in 2009 to a Cambodian consultancy connected to a sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The Tabcorp statement, posted to its website, followed a report by Fairfax Media on Tuesday claiming that the gaming firm had paid $200,000 to the unnamed consultancy while exploring the possibility of securing an online gaming license here.

“In 2009, Tabcorp explored a business opportunity in relation to the Cambodian sports betting market,” it said. “At the time, some Asian countries were considering deregulating sports betting. Tabcorp chose not to pursue the opportunity and the business was never operational.”

“Today we were advised by the Australian Federal Police [AFP] that they have commenced an investigation in relation to this matter. Tabcorp will fully cooperate with the investigation.”

The AFP confirmed the investigation but declined to name the Cambodian firm allegedly involved.

“The AFP can confirm it is conducting an investigation into allegations of foreign bribery relating to an Australian company (Tabcorp),” a spokesperson said in an email. “As the investigation is currently ongoing the AFP will not be commenting further at this time.”

In its report, Fairfax said it uncovered evidence of the payment through its own investigations and attributed much of its report to unnamed sources in the gaming industry. It said the firm made the payment through a U.S. bank account “on the instructions of figures aligned with the Hun Sen government,” and despite internal company advice that it may be illegal.

The CEO of Tabcorp at the time of the payment was Elmer Funke Kupper, who is now head of the Australian Securities Exchange, and was previously the Asia-Pacific group managing director for ANZ Bank.

Mey Vann, who heads the finance industry department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said he was unaware of any payments made by Tabcorp to a Cambodian firm.

In 2013, the department said online gambling websites were illegal in Cambodia. But Mr. Vann said the government issued a directive in January allowing online operators to be licensed.

“They can’t come to run online gambling directly,” he said. “The casino owners have the right to run online gambling. So if [other companies] want to run online gambling, they have to deal with the casino owners.”

Anti-Corruption Unit officials could not be reached for comment.

peter@cambodiadaily.com, narim@cambodiadaily.com

© 2016, Zsombor Peter. All rights reserved.