Crown did not monitor ‘money-laundering’ accounts, inquiry told
01 Sep 2020

Crown Resorts’ top legal officer has told a public inquiry that the casino giant’s anti-money laundering teams did not monitor two company bank accounts suspected to have been used to clean dirty cash.

The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority’s probity inquiry into Crown had earlier heard that the ANZ and Commonwealth banks shut down the accounts after Crown patrons used them to make a string of suspicious cash transactions totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Crown’s chief legal officer Joshua Preston on Monday recanted evidence he gave on July 31 that the accounts were reviewed by anti-money laundering teams at Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, which would have reported any suspect activity to the anti-money laundering regulator, AUSTRAC.

“Technically speaking, that’s not correct,” Mr Preston said.

Mr Preston also said that, contrary to his earlier evidence, Crown was not legally obliged under anti-money laundering laws to report transactions to the accounts above a certain threshold. But he maintained it did have to file suspicious matter reports to AUSTRAC.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, SC, disputed this and put it to Mr Preston there was in fact no obligation for Crown to report suspicious matters on the accounts because they were not conducting a “designated service” such as provided a gambling service.

“I’m not sure I can answer that question,” Mr Preston said.

The bank accounts in question were held through two shell companies Crown set up called Southbank Investments and Riverbank Investments. Customers could use the accounts to deposit money for gambling with “privacy” given the nondescript company names hid the fact the money was going to a casino, but that also made them susceptible to misuse by criminals, the inquiry has heard.

The inquiry is considering whether Crown should keep the licence for its new casino set to open at Sydney’s Barangaroo at the end of this year, and was launched following reports by this masthead that the ASX-listed group went into business with “junket” tour operators linked to organised crime in Hong Kong and Macau.

Steve Vickers, a former head of criminal intelligence for the Royal Hong Kong Police who now runs a corporate risk consultancy, told the inquiry on Monday that China’s anti-gambling laws and limits on taking cash out of the country meant it was impossible to keep Triad gangsters out of the junket industry.

“Triad activities in junkets are notorious and well known to everybody, frankly, that knows which way is up in Macau,” he said.

By Patrick Hatch, The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 August 2020

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald

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