21 Jan 2020
The NSW inquiry into Crown Resorts’ casino operations will assume the powers of a royal commission to summon James Packer and Lawrence Ho to answer questions about alleged criminal behaviour and links to a banned casino operator.
The inquiry – comprising five public hearings starting on February 24 – is the first of three inquiries into Crown.
The casino business is facing questions about its suitability to retain its gambling licence, and the permissibility of its proposed sale of a 20 per cent stake in its business to Mr Ho’s Melco Resorts.
Despite objections by Melco, the inquiry will not excuse witnesses summoned from answering questions or producing documents “on the grounds of legal, professional or other privileges”.
The first of the hearings will be about the vulnerability of casinos to money laundering and susceptibility of junkets to organised crimes, while the second and third hearings will consider the permissibility of the share-transfer to Mr Ho and media allegations of criminal behaviour at Crown’s Melbourne casino, respectively.
Mr Packer and Mr Ho, and a coterie of Crown executives including chairman John Alexander and director Michael Johnston, are expected to be summoned starting from the second hearing.
Counsels assisting the inquiry urged commissioner Paddy Bergin, a former NSW Supreme Court judge, to take a “wide” reading of aspects of the statute, consistent with the act’s intent to ensure that “casinos are conducted honestly and remain free from criminal influence and exploitation”.
Crown is under scrutiny over allegations of money laundering at its casino in Melbourne and its connections to junket operators with alleged criminal links, as first reported by Nine’s 60 Minutes, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald papers.
By Bo Seo, The Australian Financial Review, 21 January 2020
Read more at The Australian Financial Review
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