31 Jul 2020
Crown Resorts conducts its due diligence of junket partners to check for potential criminal links from within the marketing team tasked with luring wealthy high rollers to its Australian casinos, creating what the group’s legal chief concedes could be a conflict of interest.
Joshua Preston, who is responsible for legal and regulatory compliance at the James Packer-backed casino giant, on Thursday outlined in front of the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into Crown how the ASX-list group decides whether to do business with junket operators, which bring wealthy Chinese gamblers to its casinos.
The public inquiry was triggered by revelations by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that some of Crown’s junket partners had links to organised crime and money launderers,. It will consider whether the group should keep the licence for its new $2.4 billion casino nearing completion at Sydney’s Barangaroo.
Under questioning, Mr Preston told the inquiry that there was a “substantial risk” of junkets being infiltrated by organised crime. He said Crown’s process for reviewing new and existing junket operators started with Crown’s credit control team, which is part of the casino’s VIP international customer team, conducting a credit worthiness check and probity checks.
The credit team’s probity reports are then passed to a final approval panel made up of himself, Crown’s Australian resorts chief Barry Felstead and Michael Johnston, who is a non-executive director on Crown’s board representing the interests of major shareholder James Packer.
Asked by counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp, SC, whether that process could be a conflict of interest given that the VIP team may be “very interested in dealing with a particular operator, because that operator could be perceived to bring an awful lot of money to Crown”, Mr Preston said he accepted how “from an outsider’s point of view, there could be a perception of conflict”.
“But my observation is that the information provided from the credit team is given without fear or favour,” he said. “My observations are that that hasn’t played any role.”
Mr Preston said Crown had commissioned the accounting firm Deloitte to review its probity controls and expected it to highlight “any weaknesses that we have in that area”.
By Patrick Hatch, The Age, 30 July 2020
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