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Gaming Guru

Tim O'Reiley

Jury begins deliberations in case against Las Vegas Sands

13 May 2013

LAS VEGAS -- The jury in a breach of contract case against casino giant Las Vegas Sands Corp. began deliberations Friday after hearing sharply conflicting stories from lawyers about the role a Hong Kong businessman played in helping Las Vegas Sands gain entry to the lucrative Macau gambling market.

Las Vegas Sands attorney Richard Sauber showed repeated statements by businessman Richard Suen during the first trial five years ago to show differences in his testimony in the current trial.

“As far as I can tell, not one word of what he has said in this case is true,” Sauber concluded.

He repeated several times the standard instruction that if jurors “believe that a witness has lied about any material fact in the case, you may disregard the entire testimony of that witness or any portion of his testimony which is not proved by other evidence.”

Suen contends that Las Vegas Sands agreed to pay him $5 million plus 2 percent of net profits — a total of $328 million — for working to get the company its lucretive Macau franchise.

Las Vegas Sands has argued he did not deliver a gaming license as promised, so he deserves nothing.

Suen was awarded $58.6 million in 2008, but the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the verdict. Among other things, the court said the district judge shouldn’t have allowed hearsay statements during the trial.

In Sauber’s narrative, Suen’s motivation was simple. During unrelated business dealings in China, Suen had worked with and become friends with Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson’s younger brother, Leonard. Speaking of Suen and his associates, Sauber said, “This group had been looking to cash in Lenny’s relationship with his brother,” depicted as “an American-made billionaire.”

Sauber, from Washington, D.C., also credited Adelson as “inventor” of the integrated gaming resort, although several people have claimed that title in Las Vegas history.

Several side ventures, including a high-tech park in Beijing and real estate deals in Macau, were proposed merely for Suen and his associates “to try to make money as middlemen,” Sauber said.

This was a more refined version of Las Vegas Sands attorney J. Stephen Peek’s attack earlier in the trial. With the jury out of the courtroom, he labeled Suen a “con artist” and a “snake oil salesman.”

Independent of the often rocky relationship between Suen and Las Vegas Sands a dozen years ago, Sauber concluded, the variations in Suen’s testimony from one trial to the next should convince the jury to reject his claims.

“There ought to be consequences for that,” Sauber said. “And the consequence is that this person does not deserve one red cent for treating his oath (to tell the truth on the witness stand) as you’ve seen it in this case.”

But Suen’s attorney, John O’Malley, countered that given the number of times Suen testified either in trial or by deposition during the 9-year-old case, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his memory or understanding of some “nitpicks” strayed. For example, Suen once said he had not had personal contact with officials in Beijing even though photos show he did.

“On the basis of this, they call my client a liar?” said O’Malley, who got the last turn in front of the jury Friday afternoon. “On the basis of this, the foundation of their case rests?”

O’Malley also turned the tables, quoting Adelson as saying in a deposition last year that former President and Chief Operating Officer William Weidner “turned out to be a liar.” Weidner, at another point, said he would not trust Adelson on a handshake deal.

“Why should you give (Adelson) any more credit than (Weidner) does,” O’Malley said.