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Australia – New South Wales investigation into Crown Resorts gets underway

By - 24 February 2020

Crown Resorts is in the dock in New South Wales regarding its suitability to hold a casino license in the state, following allegations of links to businesses with suspected organised crime ties, exposed by The Age, the Herald and 60 Minutes in July 2019.

The allegations are particularly sensitive for Crown as it nears completion of its Barangaroo high-roller casino in Sydney, which will depend on junkets.
Crown called last year’s media reports part of a ‘deceitful campaign.’ However details emerged over the weekend of Crown sending a wire transfer of AUD$500,000 ($331,000) to nightclub operator and convicted drug trafficker Nan Hu in 2017.

Todd Harland, the former director of intelligence at the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), said the transfer was clear indication that Crown lacked appropriate measures to prevent money laundering.

According to AUSTRAC, the transaction was never reported. By law, casinos must inform the authorities about transactions exceeding AUD$10,000.
The money was then transferred to Timothy Ma, ‘a notorious organised crime figure who was jailed for heroin trafficking in the early 2000s’ according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mr. Harland said to local media: Taking cash and putting it through a casino and hopefully turning that into some level of winnings or at least the ability to make it look like it was winnings – that’s money laundering 101.”

Crown responded by saying: “Crown takes these allegations very seriously and has notified these issues to the relevant federal and state regulators and the … inquiry set up to examine such matters and will assist any investigations.”

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) is conducting the inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability. ILGA is investigating ‘the vulnerabilities of casinos to money laundering both generally and in connection with the use of junkets.’

An initial public hearing was held on January 21 with the investigation now underway and expected to last for two weeks.

Roy Wheatley, Head of Global Consulting & Development, an Australian advisory business that specialises in gaming, said to Bloomberg: “It’s going to be a bit like a car crash. People won’t be able to look away.”

The inquiry will call James Packer, who still owns a 37 per cent stake in Crown, and Lawrence Ho, CEO of Melco Resorts & Entertainment, as witnesses.

It will also investigate Melco’s investment in Crown and any links Melco could have with its CEO’s father, Stanley Ho and his associates, who have been banned by the New South Wales casino regulator from owning an interest in Crown.

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