We have not been contacted by any authorities, but if we were we would fully cooperate," said Michael Weaver, Wynn Resorts' senior vice president of marketing. Chief Executive Steve Wynn has said that the land deal was done in compliance with U.S. anti-bribery laws.
Wynn Resorts disclosed the deal in a September 2009 statement to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in which the company said it had agreed to pay usd 50 million to its partner, a company it identified as TienChiao Entertainment, for the "relinquishment of certain rights with respect to its business interests."
In a 2012 interview, Mr. Wynn told the Journal that Edmund Ho, Macau's former top official, sparked the land deal. Mr. Ho was the first chief executive of Macau after Portugal handed it over to China in 1999, and he held the post for a decade. A representative of Mr. Ho declined to comment.
Mr. Wynn said he had been "bugging" the city's leader about getting land in the space-starved territory and that Mr. Ho told him about a plot that had been earmarked for an individual from mainland China. Mr. Ho described this individual and his associates as "upstanding people from Beijing families," Mr. Wynn said, declining to elaborate further.
The announcement of the investigation by Macau's anti-corruption agency came after local media ran stories about the land deal. Those stories were prompted by statements made on a month-old website run by the International Union of Operating Engineers, a U.S. union representing Las Vegas casino workers, which has been on a long campaign to expose wrongdoing in Macau's gambling industry.
The anti-corruption agency didn't give details of its investigation, including whether it was targeting any of the players in the transaction or whether it was looking at the USD 50 million payment made by Wynn.
"Since the case is now under investigation, the CCAC has no further comments," a spokesperson for the agency said. The agency has had some success battling corruption in Macau, including investigating a former government official who was convicted of bribery in 2008 and sentenced to 29 years in prison. The case continues to reverberate in Macau, most recently with the conviction of two Hong Kong businessmen for bribing that government official.
On Wednesday, the day before the commission's comments on the investigation, Macau's land department issued a statement saying the transaction had complied with local laws. But the land department did say it had no information on TienChiao, the company Wynn had said it would pay $50 million to relinquish its land interests, in its records of the land deal. The land department declined to elaborate on its statement.
The transaction dates to the mid-2000s, when casinos were scrambling to get space on Cotai, an area of reclaimed swampland, to build enormous resorts similar to those in Las Vegas. According to a Wynn company document reviewed by the Journal and dated Aug. 25, 2005, Wynn Resorts agreed to pursue rights to the site in Macau's Cotai area with a company that was 90% owned by the Beijing man, about whom little is known.
The remaining 10% of the company, called Cia. deEntretenimento e Investimento Chinese Limitada, was owned by prominent Macau businessman Cliff Cheong, a close associate of Edmund Ho, the Journal investigation showed. Both men listed Mr. Cheong's office as their residential address in Macau.
Though neither the Beijing man's nor Mr. Cheong's name is mentioned in the public records for TienChiao, Wynn lawyers and corporate documents indicate that the Beijing man controls TienChiao, whose shareholders are listed as his brother and another man with a business registered at Mr. Cheong's office.