An inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) has confirmed allegations that Crown Resorts ignored warnings of money laundering and links between organised crime.
The lengthy inquiry, held under former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, is looking at whether the Melbourne-based casino group should keep its licence to operate its AUS$2.2bn Sydney venue, which is due to open at Barangaroo in December.
The inquiry heard that Crown Resorts never received a ‘gold star’ for anti-money laundering compliance from an independent expert, as claimed by the casino group's former boss John Alexander. Compliance expert Neil Jeans of the anti-money laundering consultancy Initialism told the inquiry that Alexander's comments did not reflect his advice to the company. Instead, Jeans highlighted that while Crown's AML systems satisfied the requirements of Australia's laws, there was room for improvement and no mention of being a gold star customer. Jeans added that he only reviewed the design and structure of Crown's compliance systems, rather than if they worked in practice.
It was also found that Crown published a false market release and advertisement last year, claiming that its gambling partner Suncity Holding Group was listed and controlled by a regulated Hong Kong firm.
While board members defended Crown’s links to Suncity, their own chief legal officer Joshua Preston later conceded before the inquiry that the deal was directly with the company’s chairman Alvin Chau Cheok Wa, who was blocked from entering Australia last year due to his suspected links to organised crime and money laundering.
Additionally, the inquiry also confirmed that senior Crown Resorts executives authorised a junior staff member to wire $500,000 to a Melbourne drug trafficker after being told that he was a ‘good friend’ of one of the casino's junket business partners.
The probe into Crown’s suitability to hold an operating license for Sydney recently resumed following a nearly three-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic.