Our research into the ownership structure of a Las Vegas casino and resort reveals that the Lalji family has made use of shell companies in the British Virgin Islands and an offshore trust in Liechtenstein since at least 1999. There is no evidence that the offshore structures set up on behalf of the Lalji family are illegal.
The Las Vegas Connection
Press reports in Las Vegas have pointed to Larco Investments as the owner of a Las Vegas casino and resort, the Rampart Casino and JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa. Yet, in 2006, The Globe and Mail reported that, “[i]n late 2001, erroneous reports surfaced that Larco was purchasing a Las Vegas hotel and casino. The company – which was actually consulting on the deal -threatened to cease its involvement.”
Who owns the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Rampart Casino?
Yet, court documents show that in the summer of 2001, Amin Lalji and Thaddas Alston, a senior executive representing Larco Enterprises, entered into discussions with the owner of a bankrupt Las Vegas casino and hotel over a possible joint arrangement to acquire the property out of bankruptcy. Each of the three Lalji brothers was involved in various discussions about the deal. When those discussions failed, Lalji and Alston moved independently to put forward the winning $80 million bid in an auction for the casino assets in September 2001.
Although key principals of Larco Enterprises were deeply involved in arranging the transaction to buy the casino, a newly created company was established to bid on the casino assets. The new company, Hotspur Resorts Nevada, Inc. was registered in Nevada and named Thaddas Alston as sole officer, director, and president.
Alston served as the only named corporate officer and director of several Nevada-based Hotspur entities as well as Maple Leaf Management Nevada, Inc. also registered that year. However, when Alston later sought a temporary liquor license to operate the resort, it was disclosed that he would not be operating the casino or the hotel, nor would he be making day to day decisions.
In a declaration to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court by their representative, Hotspur was described as a subsidiary of Hotspur Investment Holdings Inc. with the beneficial owner of the parent company being Shiraz Lalji. Larco Investments was noted as a possible source of financing for the casino: “[Hotspur] has cash on hand of approximately $40 million for the purchase of the Resort. It has the ability to borrow the balance of the funds to purchase the Resort from its banks or from Larco Investments, Ltd.
Little was publicly known about Hotspur Investment Holdings at the time. It was not until Alston and Shiraz Lalji later pursued a share in the gaming profits that Hotspur’s ownership structure would be opened up to scrutiny by Nevada gaming regulators.
Soon after the deal closed in November 2001, the Regent hotel was rebranded the JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort, Spa & Golf. Marriott announced the new JW Marriott in a press release which portrayed the Regent transaction this way:
“The former Regent Las Vegas is the first acquisition of the new investment company that recently bought the property out of bankruptcy. Hotspur contracted with Maple Leaf Management, and subsequently, Maple Leaf brought in Larco Hospitality to assist in the transition of ownership and management issues.”
Learn more about the family’s use of tax havens: Hide and Seek: How a Government Partner Uses Tax Havens to Avoid Canadian Taxes