After years of accusations of money laundering and criminal activity, Crown will be the subject of a royal commission.
The investigation, announced by Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, threatens to expose the casino giant’s darkest secrets.
But in the wash-up from the NSW Bergin inquiry it’s easy to forget exactly what the company has been accused of.
Here are some of the things we already know.
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For years Crown had been accused of turning a blind eye to money laundering on its gambling floors. Vision of wads of cash being unloaded onto a counter out of a blue cooler bag emerged in 2019, with a whistleblower alleging the company was skirting money-laundering laws.
The Bergin report confirmed what was suspected all along — that Crown had facilitated money laundering through its Perth and Melbourne casinos — and informed the inquiry’s recommendation not to allow Crown to hold a licence for its Barangaroo project.
Links to Chinese crime gangs
An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes in 2019 revealed Crown and its high-roller agents encouraged and facilitated the travel to Australia of several figures of interest to police and security agencies. This included allowing international criminal fugitive, Tom “Mr Chinatown” Zhou, access to private jets, luxury hotel suites and lavish gifts.
Crown director Helen Coonan confirmed during the hearings that Crown didn’t vet junket operators to make sure they weren’t connected to organised crime syndicates in China. She admitted that using junket operators to lure high rollers to its Melbourne and Perth casinos put Crown at risk of receiving tainted money.
The links between the junkets and organised crime was one of the main accusations in the SMH/Age/60 Minutes report. Austrac is now investigating whether Chinese VIPs used Crown’s casinos for money laundering and other criminal activities.
Packer’s influence and conduct
The Bergin inquiry exposed how Crown’s biggest shareholder, James Packer, wielded influence over the casino giant. It heard how Packer’s private company sent confidential Crown financial forecasts to Hong Kong group Melco while negotiating a sale of part of the business.
It was also revealed he made threats to an investor about a proposal to privatise Crown.
Packer accepted his conduct was “shameful” and “disgraceful”, and attributed it to medication he was on for bipolar disorder.
Crown is a massive taxpayer in Victoria and is a big political donor nationally. Packer associate Lloyd Williams famously told Andrews in front of television cameras in 2014 that “James is going to kick every goal he can for you”. Packer has filled his casino business with politically connected figures, including lobbyist and former Labor MP Mark Arbib.
Even before the money laundering allegations emerged, Crown was accused of tampering with gambling machine buttons to allow illegal continuous play at its casinos.
The allegations were made by whistleblowers and tabled as evidence in federal parliament by independent MP Andrew Wilkie in 2015.