NEW YORK (Reuters) - Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson on Wednesday filed a $60 million defamation lawsuit against a U.S. Jewish political organization, accusing the group of spreading false allegations that he approved prostitution at his Macau resorts.
Adelson, the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands, said in court papers that the National Jewish Democratic Council had mounted a personal campaign against him based on unproven and damaging accounts of his Macau operations. Adelson is a major contributor to U.S. Republican candidates.
The NJDC made “maliciously false and defamatory statements that conveyed to the public that Mr. Adelson personally approved of and profited from prostitution” at the Macau resorts, said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The NJDC, based in Washington, D.C., said in a statement that it will “not be silenced” by the lawsuit.
“To be sure, referencing mainstream press accounts examining the conduct of a public figure and his business ventures -- as we did -- is wholly appropriate,” the statement said.
The lawsuit also named the group’s president, David Harris, and chair, Marc Stanley, as defendants. It seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.
An attorney for Adelson, David Olasov, declined comment and referred calls to Ron Reese, a spokesman for the Sands. Reese also declined to comment.
The prostitution allegations had surfaced as part of a 2010 wrongful termination lawsuit by Steven Jacobs, a former president of Sands China Ltd, the company’s Macau subsidiary. Jacobs contended he had seen documents in which Adelson “personally approved” a “prostitution strategy” at the company’s casino operation in Macau, according to court documents in the case.
Jacob’s lawsuit triggered an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission into Adelson’s Macau operations. Adelson separately has brought a defamation lawsuit against Jacobs on July 20 in a Florida state court, seeking unspecified damages.
Adelson, who also owns casinos in Las Vegas and Singapore, is a large donor to U.S. Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
Earlier this month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee retracted statements it had made linking Adelson with funds it had said come from “Chinese prostitution money.” Adelson’s attorneys had contacted the group demanding a retraction and apology.
“The statements were untrue and unfair, and we retract them,” the DCCC said in a statement.
The case is Sheldon Adelson v. National Jewish Democratic Council and David Harris, et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-6052.
Additional Reporting by Sue Zeidler in Los Angeles; Editing by Martha Graybow and Leslie Gevirtz