Crown’s Perth Operations in the Spotlight

Crown resorts logo

The reaction to a bombshell report on Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a casino licence in NSW is in overdrive.

NSW minister Victor Dominello said that at the heart of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s report was the relationship between organised crime, money laundering and gambling.

WA Today reports that much of the money laundering in question took place in Western Australia, at Perth’s Crown Casino, yet regulators and politicians in the state appear to have sat idly.

The story, which first broke in 2019, alleged that AFP and AUSTRAC had identified money remitting agents who had deposited funds into the accounts of Chinese high rollers and claimed that when police arrested a known money launderer, they had discovered deposit slips for Riverbank.

Patricia Bergin’s inquiry was tasked with answering whether Crown was fit and proper to operate the casino at Crown’s $2 billion Barangaroo tower.

The investigation covered so-called junket operations involving high rolling international gamblers, the arrest of Crown staff in China, the true nature of Packer’s proposed sale of his Crown stake to Macau’s Lawrence Ho and money laundering.

Bergin, unlike the WA Gaming and Wagering Commission, took the media reports seriously and sought to establish the truth.

The inquiry found that red flags indicating money laundering was or was likely to be occurring inside the Southbank Investments and Riverbank Investments entities were raised with Crown from at least January 2014, when the ANZ Bank blew the whistle.

Cash from the entities was “swept” into the accounts of Crown Perth and Melbourne.

The ANZ warned Crown that an internal investigation had identified a series of a suspicious transaction, multiple deposits on the same day at different branches of large cash amounts under the $10,000 AUSTRAC reporting threshold by the same person.

The ANZ asked Crown a series of questions, including how the identity of depositors was recorded and why these separate legal entities were being used.

Eventually, apparently unsatisfied by the lack of answers, it closed the accounts but a similar approach prevailed with CBA accounts until as recently as 2019.

The inquiry found there was no evidence of Crown executives including then-chief financial officer and future chief executive Ken Barton ever responding in writing to the ANZ’s questions or elevating the red flags to Crown’s board or risk subcommittees.

In mid-2019, Crown took out newspaper ads to describe the reporting by Nine newspapers and 60 Minutes as “unbalanced and sensationalised”, based on “unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods”.

The ads were signed by all Crown directors, with WA-based dealmaker John Poynton forced to acknowledge at the inquiry he’d been “let down…in the sense that some of the strong assertions or refutations made were not completely accurate.”

Commissioner Deems Crown Unsuitable to Hold Sydney Licence

view of a man review a document using a pen to make changes

Crown Resorts has been found unsuitable to hold the licence for its new casino in Sydney.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on February 9 that following a public inquiry into the organisation, the findings by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin were released last Tuesday following an 18-month probe into the group.

In a nearly 800-page report, Commissioner Bergin said that the finding of Crown’s unsuitability stemmed from evidence of money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos, the arrest of 19 staff in China in 2016 and its partnership with “junket” tour operators linked to organised crime.

“The scorching light of this inquiry has exposed a number of problems that would have otherwise remained unearthed and unresolved,” Commissioner Bergin said.

The report considers what reforms Crown might have to undertake in order to be deemed fit to hold a casein licence in NSW, with its core problem being its “poor corporate governance, deficient risk management structures and processes and a poor corporate culture.”

“Crown recognises that there is a need for cultural change,” Bergin said.

“However, this must come from within Crown rather than from some proposal to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority in this process.”

Commissioner Bergin’s recommendations are not binding and the authority will meet later this month to consider which, if any, it should implement.

William Brown

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