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Melco Crown sued over law firm theft
Local gaming concessionaire Melco Crown Jogos has been sued by the Hong Kong branch of an international law firm that is seeking compensation after a former partner allegedly embezzled clients’ money to gamble away in Macau.
According to the writ filed earlier this week and quoted by yesterday’s edition of the South China Morning Post, K&L Gates, founded by the father of former Microsoft chief executive officer Bill Gates, claims Melco knew that ex-employee Navin Kumar Aggarwal had stolen the money.
Aggarwal resigned last June and was charged with three counts of theft of about HKD 780 million in clients’ deposit guarantees and three counts of forgery between January and July 2010. The criminal case is scheduled for a hearing on April 2. In the filing K&L Gates claims its former partner transferred at least HKD 34 million from client accounts to Melco in order to gamble at its Macau casinos. In the end he lost at least HKD 9.9 million while gambling, the firm said.
The company is asking the Hong Kong High Court for access to information on how much Melco won from the money that Aggarwal stole, as well as to force the operator to return that money.
A Melco spokesperson told Macau Daily Times the company was yet to be notified of the lawsuit but said K&L Gates’ allegations were “unfound and unproven”. “Once we are notified we will fight those allegations of misappropriation vigorously,” the operator said.
Melco also added that it is also a creditor of Aggarwal.
But Melco is not the only local operator involved in this case. Aggarwal, 44, is also charged with stealing HKD 16.6 million from the accounts of another client, held with K&L Gates and transferring the funds to Wynn International Marketing Ltd. in 2010. The corporate lawyer admitted to taking money from client accounts to cover his gambling habit and apologized, in a letter of confession written after resigning last June when confronted with the allegations.
“The money that I stole was used to pay my gambling losses that I have accumulated over the years. I was using one ‘escrow’ to cover the other,” says the letter included in the filing quoted by South China Morning Post. K&L Gates LLP is a Pittsburgh-based law firm with 2,000 lawyers worldwide. The firm, which itself has been sued for at least HKD 250.4 million, sued Aggarwal for breach of trust and asked Hong Kong’s High Court to freeze his assets. Aggarwal was part of the firm’s Betting and Gaming practice.
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