Crown’s Financial Crimes Officer’s Position Delayed

Crown Casino
A new Crown Resorts employee who will oversee compliance and financial crimes won’t start in his role until March.

The Financial Review reports that Steven Blackburn’s tenure will commence in March 2021, raising doubt about whether Crown will be able to open the doors at its new Sydney venture at Barangaroo.

Mr Blackburn is the chief financial crime risk officer and group money laundering reporting officer at National Australia Bank and previously worked at Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Toronto.

He will join the casino operator at a time of immense regulatory pressure in three states over alleged breaches of anti-money laundering laws and Crown’s partnerships with junkets tied to organised crime.

Only last month, Crown was forced to delay opening its $2 billion Barangaroo casino on Sydney’s waterfront until an inquiry delivered findings to the NSW regulator.

It was during the public hearings of this probe that the company first flagged it would recruit a new head of compliance and financial crimes, as it fights to avoid serious sanctions on the Barangaroo gaming licence that could include forcing billionaire shareholder James Packer to sell down his stake.
Crown made much of the newly created role in its submissions to the NSW casino inquiry, which heard disturbing allegations of money laundering in the bank accounts of Crown subsidiary companies.

Blackburn’s recruitment applauded by Crown heavyweights

Chief executive Ken Barton said he was pleased with the recruitment of Mr Blackburn, who has headed up the anti-money laundering process at NAB since mid-2018 and whose prior roles included similar duties in Canada.

“This appointment is a further significant step forward in strengthening our compliance and anti-money laundering functions,” Mr Barton said.

“Steven is an experienced compliance executive and his substantial technical expertise and global perspectives will position him well to take a leadership role in driving further improvements through the business.”

Mr Blackburn will report directly to the board and Mr Barton as previously promised.

But given the fact he will not start in his new role for almost three months, it may raise questions about the importance Crown has placed on this appointment in strengthening its risk and compliance structure.

The delay may give the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority further pause.

In her evidence to the inquiry in October, Crown chairman Helen Coonan said she had hoped a Head of Financial crime may be able to start as early as mid-November, ahead of the December 14 opening.

Among the more serious problems circling Crown is the potential that two of its subsidiaries were used by criminals to launder money.

At the NSW inquiry led by former supreme court judge Commissioner Patricia Bergin, Crown’s lawyers admitted money laundering “probably” occurred in those accounts.

Following the admission, a stark about-face to prior evidence from Crown officers to the inquiry – gaming regulators in Victoria urgently sought key documents identifying the money laundering.

Meanwhile, West Australian regulators are considering the evidence.

Commissioner Bergin will deliver her findings by February 1.

Financial crimes watchdog Australia Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre is also after Crown over failure to report suspicious transactions at its Melbourne casino.

On Wednesday, Crown shares were up 0.5 per cent, broadly in line with the S&P/ASX 200 Index, to $9.80.

William Brown

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