As voters in the United States get set to go to the polls tomorrow to elect their 45th President, reports have emerged linking both main candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to a Macau casino owner currently under indictment in New York for allegedly attempting to bribe an official at the United Nations.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal newspaper, Chinese business mogul Ng Lap Seng joined with Trump and other investors in a 2001 bid for one of three Macau casino licenses then being made available.
The newspaper reported that the projected deal would have seen the Republican candidate’s Trump Hotels And Casino Resorts Holdings operate a casino out of Ng’s existing Fortuna Casino And Hotel property on behalf of a Macau firm named Baia Da Nossa Senhora Entertainment Company, whose shareholders included several other local billionaires and their associates.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the consortium had committed to investing about $1.4 billion as part of the project although Ng eventually failed to gain one of the new licenses with the rainbow-colored Fortuna Casino And Hotel, which is especially popular with members of the Chinese military, currently operating under a legacy deal arrangement.
The newspaper asserted that Trump’s other partners in the proposed deal included Joseph Lau, the Hong Kong property developer who has been on the run since 2014 after being convicted in absentia of corruption in Macau and sentenced to more than five years in prison. Lau also made news last year after paying a world-record $48 million in Geneva for a 12.03-carat blue diamond that he subsequently renamed after his young daughter, Josephine.
In the end, the consortium finished in the bottom half of the pack of 18 bidders based on criteria including experience, pledged investment levels and the ability to create jobs although Hope Hicks, a spokesperson for Trump, told The Wall Street Journal that the New York-born billionaire had not been “seriously considering” the deal.
Sixty-eight-year-old Ng is currently under house arrest in New York on a $50 million bond after being charged by federal authorities in September of 2015 with bribing a now-deceased United Nations diplomat. The Chinese national has entered a plea of not guilty and told the South China Morning Post newspaper that the charges against him are politically motivated.
For Clinton, the relationship with Ng reportedly goes back to the 1990s when Congressional reports emerged detailing his alleged role in a scheme that had illegally funnelled foreign money to the Democratic National Committee for President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign. Although the Macau-based billionaire was never charged in the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported that lawmakers identified purported ties with local criminal gangs while asking in 1998 how a man with peasant roots in southern China “had been selected to act as a front for municipal and provincial authorities in the People’s Republic Of China”.
The newspaper reported that Ng had allegedly donated cash to the Democratic National Committee via friend Charlie Trie and was subsequently invited to exclusive events such as a 1994 presidential gala in Washington, DC, where he had his photograph taken with President Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.
“Intriguingly, Ng, who had no ties to the President except through Trie, also visited the White House ten times between June of 1994 and October of 1996,” read a report from the United States Senate.
The Clintons were never implicated in the scandal but Trie ended up pleading guilty to campaign-finance violations while administration officials faced accusations from Republican members of Congress that they had been too loose with their donation protocols.