Crown still exposed to money laundering

Crown faced pushback after cutting by half the length of a historical review into the presence of money laundering in its bank accounts, a royal commission has heard.

Provisional results from the review show indications of money laundering as recently as February, an inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to keep its licence for its Melbourne operations was told on Wednesday. 

Crown in February engaged consultancy firm Deloitte to conduct the “deep dive” into its accounts following the NSW inquiry led by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin.

The Bergin inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering, partnered with junket operators with links to organised crime groups even after being made aware of these connections, and exposed staff to the risk of detention in China.

It also found the James Packer-backed group unsuitable to run its newly built casino in Sydney’s Barangaroo.

Deloitte partner Lisa Dobbin said her firm’s review, currently underway, would be submitted to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority in the context of the Bergin inquiry.

Crown cut the review from seven years down to three before the NSW gaming regulator intervened, Ms Dobbin said. 

The financial crimes advisor said a seven-year review was typical for these types of exercises and more appropriate than a three-year review. 

“For the purposes of determining the extent to which there’s been money laundering activities … the longer period gives you a better opportunity to identify that activity,” Ms Dobbin said.

Ms Dobbin added that after Crown went back to the ILGA with a proposed three-year review, the regulator rejected this and said it would want a nine-year review. 

A seven-year review was settled on after concerns were raised about accessing records beyond that point. 

The Deloitte review’s provisional results show bank accounts connected to Crown Melbourne and Perth may show evidence of money laundering as recently as February, Ms Dobbin said. 

Deloitte’s final results are expected to be available in August.

The Victorian inquiry, set up by the Andrews government and overseen by former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein QC, began its public hearings last week.

It has been told Crown lied to the Victorian gambling regulator about what it knew of China’s foreign casino crackdown after its own staff were arrested overseas.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation looked into the arrests of 19 Crown staff in China in 2016.

All were charged with gambling promotion offences, and remain the subject of an ongoing class action against Crown.

The inquiry also heard a Crown representative was “furious” and threatened to call Victoria’s gaming minister after the VCGLR probed its scrutiny of junket players. 

The hearing continues on Wednesday. 

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