Local Business Interests Linked to US Election Violations

A local Japanese real estate executive, his Cambodian employee and a company owned by a prominent U.S. investor in Cambodia gave almost $800,000 to a shadowy pro-gambling U.S. ballot campaign that violated state election law, state records show.

Toko Kobayashi, CEO of real estate developer New Consolidated Max World (Cambodia), is named alongside Cambodian Sok Chenda in a statement released on Thursday by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPC).

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Slot machines in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mr. Kobayashi and Ms. Chenda, who are listed in election records as real estate developers for Regent Able Associate, donated $200,000 each on October 14 to a political group that has agreed to pay the state $125,000 to “resolve campaign finance issues,” according to the statement.

The Horse Racing Jobs and Education Ballot Question Committee sponsored a failed November 8 state ballot measure that would have allowed for a new slot machine parlor in Massachusetts.

The state claims the committee disguised the sources of contributions under a Delaware-based shell company, sparking an investigation by the OCPC. The office says the committee also violated campaign finance laws by failing to show a disclaimer listing its donors in over 400 television spots.

In the committee’s disposition agreement with the state, it acknowledged the accuracy of the report and accepted the penalty, noting that it was “always their intention to comply with Massachusetts Campaign Finance and Disclosure laws.”

Reached on Sunday, Mr. Kobayashi first denied knowledge of the donations, then downplayed their significance.

“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “You need to do your homework a little more.”

When pressed to explain why his name was listed alongside Ms. Chenda’s in the state’s disposition agreement with the committee, however, Mr. Kobayashi claimed that there was nothing amiss in the donations and threatened reporters with a lawsuit.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said of the donation.

“If you write something wrong, I might have to sue you,” he added. When asked what was incorrect about the OCPC statement, Mr. Kobayashi repeated his threat.

Mr. Kobayashi is listed as chairman and CEO of Max World on the company’s website, which puts the company’s capitalization at $1 million.

Mr. Kobayashi is also Facebook friends with Eugene McCain Jr., the chairman of the pro-slots campaign committee whom The Boston Globe called “an enigmatic American-born developer of luxury resorts in Thailand.”

Ms. Chenda, who is listed as Max World’s chief financial officer on its website, was reluctant to speak about her donation on Sunday.

“Why you ask about the transfer of money?” she asked. “This is speaking about my boss, so I cannot say about this.”

When asked if she had donated $200,000 of her own funds, Ms. Chenda demurred.

“I took from my own money $200,000? No way,” she said, declining further comment.

The disposition agreement signed by Mr. McCain earlier this month shows that an additional $390,000 in campaign funding came from Bridge Capital, an investment bank registered in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the western Pacific.

Bridge Capital has invested heavily in Cambodia since its founding in 1995 by U.S. national John Baldwin, including as the parent company of Angkor Capital Specialized Bank, which is listed with a company capital of $10 million in Commerce Ministry records hosted by the NGO Global Witness.

The bank shares a Norodom Boulevard address with Mr. Kobayashi’s company Max World, as well as Ha Tien Vegas Resort and several other real estate, casino, and entertainment companies owned by either Mr. Baldwin or Bridge Capital vice chairman Shawn Scott, according to the database, which was last updated a year ago.

The Washington Post also linked Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Scott to slot machine legalization drives in Washington, D.C. in 2004.

The Laotian government, which jointly operated a casino in Laos with Bridge Capital, opened a criminal investigation against Mr. Baldwin in 2015, three years after it seized the casino over what it claimed was millions of dollars in unpaid taxes and fees, according to an article in the Marianas Variety newspaper.

An employee for the casino transported $300,000 in a suitcase from the company’s Phnom Penh bank to a Laotian official whom Mr. Baldwin called a “consultant” in a 2014 affidavit he signed, lawyers representing Laos told the Saipan Tribune newspaper.

The government of Laos also claimed to have obtained an email from Mr. Baldwin “instructing his staff to pay a $120,000 bribe to a Cambodian official to obtain a Cambodian lottery license,” the newspaper reported.

Bridge Capital’s offices were closed on Sunday, and Mr. Baldwin could not be reached for comment.

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