- »Connections to Arms Dealer Add to Crown Scandal
Connections to Arms Dealer Add to Crown Scandal
The hits keep coming for Crown Resorts as the criminal allegations accumulate.
The latest reports indicate that Crown hosted a financial supporter of Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor. Joseph Wong Kiia Tai was on the United Nations sanctions list as an arms dealer but still gambled millions in Crown casinos.
Latest Allegations: Hosting a Sanctioned Arms Dealer
Joseph Wong Kiia Tai had a long history of crimes, as determined by the United Nations. He was determined to be an arms dealer connected to Liberian war criminal Charles Taylor. Tai was providing military and financial support before Taylor was imprisoned in England.
Despite Tai being on the UN sanctions list until 2015, Wong was able to gamble at Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth casinos during that time. He gained access to Australia through a faulty visa. This is even though the Australian government was well aware of the sanctions and Wong’s travel ban.
Wong lost more than $6 million over the course of several visits. These were arranged via junkets. ABC reviewed records as evidence.
Who are Taylor and Wong?
Taylor was born and raised in Liberia. But attended college in the United States. He began working in the government. However, he was ousted for embezzlement.
After spending time in Libya for training as a guerrilla fighter, he returned to Liberia to help overthrow the current government and take the nation into the First Liberian Civil War. Taylor rose to power and was elected as the nation’s president in 1997.
Taylor was accused and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity during his time in office by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. However, he resigned and self-exiled into Nigeria.
Taylor was finally captured and tried by the Special Court in The Hague. He was found guilty of charges that included terror, murder, enslavement, pillage, and rape. The presiding judge called his actions “some of the most heinous and brutal crimes in recorded human history”. The verdict in 2012 led to a sentence of 50 years in prison.
Wong was an executive at the Oriental Timber Company on paper. However, he had strong ties to Taylor. He was found by the UN Security Council Committee to have provided military and financial support as an arms dealer, helping him destabilize Sierra Leone and “gain illicit access to diamonds.”
For these crimes, he received a travel ban and assets freeze in 2011, though lifted in 2015.
Responses to Revelations
The Australian Department of Home Affairs confirmed that it knew about Wong’s visits to Crown casinos. The governmental body says it investigates misuse of the visa system and tries to prevent future occurrences when possible.
A spokesperson for Crown said the company had “no interest in being used by criminal elements.” And as before, Crown noted that it works with Australia’s governmental organizations and law enforcement agencies to provide information for investigations.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews was concerned about the allegations, especially with relation to the visa issue and the overall customers and border protection process. He said he is taking the news about Wong “very seriously.”
However, Andrews first wants to complete all investigations to obtain facts and regulator findings. He then wants to examine recommendations and decide how to move forward, but he added, “We will not hesitate to act.”
Victorian Gaming Minister Marlene Kairouz is also in favor of “re-examining all the allegations.”
More and More Investigations
Kairouz took a bit of a stronger stance in the days following the news of Wong gambling at Crown.
While she placed more blame on Border Force than the gaming regulator or Crown itself, she did send a letter to Attorney-General Christian Porter asking for guidance. Even so, she did not contact Crown, establish a special taskforce, or bring in the Victoria police department.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, she said, “I’m sure you don’t expect the commission or the inspectors to be standing at the door of Crown Casino asking people whether they have a visa; that is the role of Border Forces.”
As for Crown, Kairouz trusts the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) to investigate all of the recent allegations. She believes they will work with the relevant agencies to gather all pertinent information.
In addition to the ongoing investigation by VCGLR, others like the Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia, federal crimes agency Austrac, and the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity are all conducting their own probes.
This is all on top of recent calls for a royal commission. Tasmanian MP Andrew Wilkie and Victorian MP Fiona Patten are pushing for a royal commission based on information provided by a whistleblower earlier this month. They claimed that public hearings were in order even before the latest allegations about Wong gambling at Crown.