Crown chief had to be ‘led by nose’ to ‘irresistible’ money laundering realisation: inquiry
20 Nov 2020

Crown Resorts cannot be trusted to hold the gaming licence for its new Sydney casino because it continually resisted warning signs money laundering was occurring at its Melbourne and Perth venues and had to be “led by the nose” to the “obvious” and “irresistible” realisation, an inquiry has heard.

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into the company’s suitability to operate a gambling business at its new $2 billion plus Barangaroo development heard the bombshell admission from Crown on Wednesday that evidence of money laundering had indeed been found in its bank accounts.

But it came long after banks closed various accounts over their concerns, which chief executive Ken Barton was aware of.

The scandal was aired in the media last year, including explosive leaked footage of a huge amount of cash being exchanged for gambling chips in a room dedicated to VIP high rollers.

“What we saw was a person bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in a shopping bag into a casino in the middle of the night wrapped in elastic bands, wrapped in cellophane and handed over in wads,” counsel assisting Scott Aspinall told the inquiry on Friday.

“In my submission you wouldn’t really need to see more than that to be able to reasonably suspect that it’s proceeds of crime – it speaks of someone trying to exchange ill-gotten cash.”

Mr Barton had been shown at the inquiry in July the accounts were “riddled” with suspicious transactions and only conceded it was a worry afterwards.

Mr Aspinall asked why information received from the banks was not taken seriously and why Mr Barton had to be “led by the nose” to an “obvious” and “irresistible” conclusion.

“The concession that money laundering took place in those accounts was resisted by Crown month after month after month until the 18th of November,” Mr Aspinall said.

“That says more than the fact that money laundering actually occurred in those accounts.

“What is says is that this company is unable to govern itself because it cannot see the obviousness of money laundering when it is put before it and will not concede and co-operate with the regulator to agree to that proposition when it is as plain as a pikestaff that money laundering had occurred.”

Crown had failed to enforce internal controls, and while it now argues improvements in that respect mean it is suitable to hold the licence, Mr Aspinall is far from convinced.

He said the regulator would want to be sure Crown was “significantly strong to resist that maelstrom” of dodgy types targeting their venue for money laundering.

By Rebecca Le May,, 20 November 2020


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