Crown Resorts Chairman Admits Money Laundering
Another incredible revelation came last week as the Crown Resorts Executive Chairman, Helen Coonan, admitted the casino operator actively and knowingly facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne location. The amazing confession was made during a civil inquiry into the suitability of Crown Resorts to obtain a Sydney casino license, being carried out by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.
The Crown Resorts investigation has been a long-term festering investigation by the Australian authorities, climaxing last month with a staggering testimony from James Packer (former executive chairman). Looking subdued and uncomfortable on video-link from his super yacht somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, Packer admitted a series of failings at Crown and made clear he will not serve again on its board.
There are two main issues with Crown that the regulatory board is trying to get to the bottom of. The first of which is that they knowingly and willingly facilitated multiple junket companies (firms that transfer money out of China for rich clients) money laundering efforts, including one shocking incident of hiding $5.6 million in cash in a private room to avoid the scrutiny of regulatory enforcement agents.
And secondly, is the issue of Packer apparently disregarding the terms of the Sydney casino license by attempting to sell a large stake of Crown Resorts to Lawrence Ho. The New South Wales Liquor and Gaming Authority had identified Lawrence’s father, Stanley Ho, as a nefarious actor, and want to obstruct him from gaining control of assets in the Australian gambling industry. Packer’s defense was that he simply forgot about the condition in the license, which in many people’s eyes is an inextricable cataclysm of failures with no possibility for retribution.
Coonan Claims Not to Be Aware of SunCity’s Criminal Links
The current executive chairman of the company was under heavy fire this week as she faced a tough round of questioning on the role played by Crown Resorts in the SunCity fiasco. The high-roller junket operator allegedly linked with Chinese crime gangs were known to Crown Resorts, investigators challenged Coonan on why the partnership was not ended as soon as evidence of bad activities began to emerge.
When asked if this was another example of Crown’s institutional failures to identify this dangerous activity, Coonan retorted it was simply down to negligence and ineptitude of the staff working in the casino. This stonewall denial of any direct wrongdoing of the leadership was made all the more ridiculous after the investigators presented a series of evidence regarding breaches and failures from the past two years.
Austrac, an agency involved in combatting organized crime in Australia, pointed out that they had explicitly warned Crown Resorts via email in 2017 of the criminal associations of the SunCity founder Alvin Chau. Crown Resorts apparently did not heed this warning and continued to conduct business however they pleased, Coonan claimed she was unaware any such email had been received by the casino management.
Propaganda and Misinformation Campaign Launched by Crown
In June 2019 the Crown board went on the offensive to try and clear their tarnished reputation. Instead of launching internal investigations to unearth the structural failures that had led them down this path of destruction, the firm decided to elaborate on alternative facts. Refusing to hold their hands up and admit that they had failed in a huge and catastrophic way, the board attempted a misinformation and propaganda campaign to try and win public support.
Crown Resorts issued a statement at this time stating that they always vetted junket operators and only work with those that are operating in a clean way. They also stated that in the case of SunCity, its parent company was a regulated public asset on the Hong Kong stock exchange, and thus could be trusted. However, this was not true.
In a brazen attempt to twist from the truth even further, Crown took out double-page spreads in some of the biggest newspapers in Australia emblazoned with its statement. The trouble was the SunCity parent company that Crown Resorts claimed was a regulated public entity in an attempt to exonerate itself turned out not to be that, it was privately held and not under the strict scrutiny that Hong Kong public companies are subject to.
Austrac Launches Criminal Investigation
The culmination of all these damning events can only lead to one conclusion. A day after Coonan gave evidence, Austrac announced it will be launching a parallel investigation into breaches of non-compliance with the regulator related to anti-money laundering laws, and indictments related to counter-terrorism financing laws within the Crown Resorts Melbourne operation.
It’s a rap sheet containing charges of the highest level of seriousness. With this level of corruption and conspiracy clearly engulfing the casino operator in Australia, it is hard to see how Crown Resorts will recover from this. The Crown Board will be once again on public duty this week as the annual shareholder meeting is due to kick off. The event is sure to draw headlines, as board members will be grilled with the hard questions of their shareholders.