Home » Former Star CFO alleges the company tried to cook the books

Former Star CFO alleges the company tried to cook the books

“I thought the group was going through quite a tumultuous period and a lot of that had to do with the debt at the time and the implications that deteriorated earnings had on the debt itself,” she said. “We didn’t have any conversation about the vulnerabilities of the balance sheet and the debt with that group.

“Robbie and I didn’t necessarily agree on how much disclosure we should have with our leadership team. My view was that we should be fully transparent with them … so the minds of that team could all focus on developing a business plan to address earnings.”

‘Deep cultural problem’

She said Mr Cooke was concerned that it might worry them or affect morale. Ms Katsibouba ultimately disclosed the debt woes to the leadership team mid-last year.

The inquiry had heard already that more than $3.2 million was extracted from a so-called ticket-in, cash-out terminal last year without any urgency from casino staff to resolve the problem. Star Sydney’s government-appointed special manager, Nick Weeks, said on Monday that it revealed a “deep cultural problem”.

Ms Katsibouba alleged that she was asked to move the losses from that event – in July – to November, by the general manager of investor relations, Giovanni Rizzo.

“In November and December, earnings were not quite the run rate of the earlier months and if this amount was booked in those … it would appear it would have otherwise been a good month,” she said. Ms Katsibouba said the losses were ultimately booked for July, but the matter required intervention from the company’s auditor. She said she felt at an impasse after a conversation with Mr Rizzo and Mr Cooke about the matter.

“The auditors didn’t come to me directly, but I know there was work done in the background to fix up the presentations on that page so that the losses appeared in the right column,” she said.

The inquiry also heard, in evidence from Ms Katsibouba, about a proposal raised by Mr Cooke, regarding a material investment around March last year. Ms Katsibouba said the financial reaction to the proposal was “negative”, but the proposal was still submitted to the board for approval with new figures that were not looked at by the finance team.

“I was disappointed that … a paper had been put into the board without at least coming to me to have a look at it as well,” she said.

Mr Weeks is currently the controller of Star Sydney’s licence. When asked by Mr Bell who should be responsible for the new failings under his watch, he said it should be Star.

“My view is that the role I have endeavoured to undertake here is that I’ve relied heavily on the company,” he said. “I think it would be impractical and cost-inefficient to build a large team of my own … to physically run the casino. To the extent that there have been breaches of the [internal control measures], then they are breaches of Star’s.”

Ms Katsibouba alleged that she had never seen two reports produced by Mr Weeks late last year, which raised concerns about progress with remediation.

“They were an important marker for the manager and an opportunity for him to give an early warning to the business about his views on progress,” she said. “It would have been good for the leadership team to see the detail of those and discuss and course correct as necessary.”

Left out of the loop

The departure of Ms Katsibouba was reported by the company in March, but the former chief financial officer told the inquiry she had been considering leaving for some time. She claimed she was left out of the loop on important matters such as AUSTRAC discussions and the sale of the casino’s Treasury assets in Brisbane.

Star is facing claims brought against it by AUSTRAC that it allowed 117 high-risk VIP patrons to churn billions of dollars of dirty cash through its casinos for years.

“I expressed to [Robbie] I had been unhappy for some time, that I felt I couldn’t get traction on some important pieces of work, that I felt unsupported … that I felt increasingly unable to get time with him,” Ms Katsibouba said of a conversation that took place in December.

“I felt that my position had been untenable and that I wanted to exit.”

Mr Cooke is yet to give his own evidence before the inquiry and has not responded to the allegations made by Ms Katsibouba or Mr Weeks this week.

If Star is found unsuitable at the end of the inquiry, its licence could be permanently revoked and the casino shut down, a move that would affect thousands of jobs.