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Bridge Co-owner Faces Criminal Probe

Bridge Capital co-owner John K. Baldwin is being investigated for alleged corruption in the Lao PDR. According to authorities, Baldwin offered Lao officials more than $300,000 to terminate an audit related to a casino.

Bridge Capital LLC co-owner John K. Baldwin is the subject of criminal and tax investigations in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, formerly Laos, on alleged bribery charges, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Baldwin allegedly offered Lao PDR officials more than $300,000 to terminate an audit related to Sanum Investments Ltd. and Savan Vegas and Casino, which are controlled by Bridge Capital, according to court documents. In 2007, the Lao PDR signed a concession agreement with Sanum, granting it a 50-year concession to build and operate the casino. The casino opened in 2009; Savan Vegas is now owned 80 percent by the Baldwin group and 20 percent by the Lao PDR.

William Fitzgerald, lawyer for the Lao PDR, says a Baldwin employee deposited $300,000 in cash into the bank account of Sengkeo Phimmasone, a Lao citizen Baldwin calls a “consultant” in July 2012. Two days later, a Lao PDR official terminated an Ernst & Young audit of the casino company.

Baldwin has said the cash was a loan to a friend, the consultant.

Fitzgerald also says $30,000 was paid to the director general of the Tax Department in 2009 in exchange for a flat-tax agreement that granted the Savan Vegas and Casino required the property to pay $750,000 per year instead of tax at the rate-code rate.

In addition, the Lao PDR also produced an email from Baldwin allegedly instructing his staff to pay a $120,000 bribe to a Cambodian official to obtain a Cambodian lottery license.

“This bribe has cost the government $70 million in lost tax revenue over the five-year period of the flat tax agreement,” Fitzgerald said.