The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has dropped its investigation into allegations that Tabcorp Holdings Ltd, Australia’s biggest gaming company, paid a bribe when it attempted to enter the Cambodian market a decade ago, Australian media outlets reported.
The Australian media group Fairfax Media claimed in 2016 that Tabcorp, then headed by Elmer Funke Kupper (who became CEO of the Australian Securities Exchange, but later resigned after the probe started), paid AUS$200,000 ($137,000) to a consultancy firm linked to a sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen, when it was trying to secure an online gaming license in the Kingdom in 2010. The payoff was allegedly coursed through a bank in the United States.
Giving benefit to a foreign official or his representative to obtain or retain a business is illegal under Australian law.
Tabcorp then was eyeing the lucrative Asian gaming market ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Cambodia was a natural choice for the company as it was among several countries in Southeast Asia that were considering deregulation of sports betting at that time.
Tabcorp’s plan to set up sports betting operations in Cambodia through its betting subsidiary, Luxbet, did not push through eventually.
The Fairfax Media allegations triggered the AFP probe, which stretched for three years.
As quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald this week, a spokesperson for the AFP stressed that the matter is now considered closed.
“In late 2016 the Australian Federal Police began an investigation into allegations of foreign bribery relating to an Australian company (Tabcorp) relating to alleged payments to Cambodian government officials in 2009 and 2010,” the spokesperson said.
“In 2019 the AFP conducted a review of this long and thorough investigation and found it is not possible to obtain the evidence required to support a criminal prosecution. The AFP now considers this matter finalised,” it added.
Tabcorp has always maintained its innocence. “Tabcorp has co-operated with the AFP throughout the investigation and welcomes the conclusion of this matter,” the company said in a statement after it was informed of the AFP’s decision.
The Cambodian government, likewise, branded the allegations as “baseless”.
Tabcorp is the largest gaming operator in Australia, with operations in every state or territory of the country except for Western Australia. The ASX-listed company runs digital betting services, lotteries, among other businesses.