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Alves holds three public positions. He sits on the local legislature. He belongs to a 10-member council that advises Macau's chief executive, the most powerful local administrator. And he's a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, a group that advises China's central government.
The then-general counsel of Las Vegas Sands warned that large portions of the invoices submitted by Alves in 2009 were triple what had been initially agreed and far more than could be justified by the legal work performed.
"I understand that what they are seeking is approx $700k," the general counsel wrote to the company's Macau executives in an email in late 2009. "If correct, that will require a lot of explaining given what our other firms are charging and given the FCPA," the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Adelson, described by Forbes Magazine as the largest foreign investor in China, ultimately ordered executives to pay Alves the full amount he had requested, according to an email that quotes his instructions.
Several Las Vegas Sands executives resigned or were fired after expressing concerns about Alves' billings. These include Las Vegas Sands' general counsel and two top executives at Sands China, its Macau subsidiary.
William Weidner, president of Las Vegas Sands from 1995 to 2009, said he understood from the beginning that opening casinos in Macau meant dealing with "junkets" — companies that arrange gambling trips for high rollers.
Gambling is illegal in mainland China, as is the transfer of large sums of money to Macau. The junkets solve those problems, providing billions of dollars in credit to gamblers. When necessary, they collect gambling debts, a critical function since China's courts are not permitted to force losers to pay up.
Weidner said junkets are a natural result of China's controls on the movement of money out of the country, channeling as much as $3 billion a month from the mainland to Macau.
"To Westerners, the junkets mean money laundering equated with organized crime or drugs," he said. "In China where money is controlled, it's part of doing business."
Weidner resigned from the company after a bitter dispute with Adelson.