The director of Crown Resorts has admitted that his company was ‘deficient’ in tackling accusations of organised crime and money laundering within his casinos.
But Andrew Demetriou refused to admit to an ongoing inquiry in New South Wales that his firm ‘turned a blind eye’ to money laundering in their Australian premises, even though Crown’s lead shareholder, James Packer, admitted he had known of some nefarious dealings on his premises.
The allegations relate to a series of payments that passed through two separate Crown bank accounts, which Demetriou has admitted were potentially fraudulent.
To make matters worse, a separate investigation has been launched by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, who are accusing Crown of failing to properly control the junket operators that recruit VIP gamblers for the firm.
Crown want to open a new casino resort in Barangaroo, Sydney, and an inquiry into the brand has revealed rather more than Demetriou and Packer would have hoped for.
The director has defended the company’s record, stating that it’s a ‘very good organisation’ that has simply struggled with a ‘culture of compliance’. “We run a very large and complex business employing 18,500 people. You don’t win the Australian Employer of the Year three times unless you are running a fine business,” Demetriou told the adjudicator.
“In some aspects we’ve proven to be deficient, particularly in the areas this inquiry has looked at. But it’s not to say we don’t run a very fine business in other areas.”
But those assertions were rejected by Charles Livingstone, an associate professor and gambling researcher at Monash University. “Domestic local criminals frequent the casino and the police know about it and just let it happen because they can keep an eye on them, I presume,” he told The Guardian in Australia.
“It’s well known that casino chips circulate in the underworld. It’s an exceptionally good form of money laundering.”
A History of Naughtiness
It would be fair to say that Crown Resorts’ time in Australia has not been shy of controversy.
In 2016, the firm’s sports betting sister company – CrownBet – came under fire for alleged illegal advertising, which featured inducements designed to get the people of New South Wales gambling. Crown’s legal representatives pleaded guilty to five counts, and they were fined more than $20,000 in fines and costs.
And in 2019, Nine Network conducted their own investigation into the firm which was aired as part of the ’60 Minutes’ programme. In that, Crown were accused of breaking Chinese law by advertising their services to nationals, and that they employed the services of junket operators – later linked to Hong Kong’s Triad gangs – to help entice VIP and high rolling gamblers to their casino properties in order to circumnavigate Chinese prohibition.
The footage captured in the documentary shows gamblers handing over large stacks of $100 bills to casino staff. The film was launched with the tagline ‘…a six-month joint investigation by 60 MINUTES, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald has exposed a corporate scandal unlike anything Australia has seen before.’
Crown were even accused of setting up a special arrangement with the Department of Home Affairs which sped up the processing of short stay visa applications, allowing Chinese VIP punters to visit the country for ‘business and/or leisure’ purposes.
Those accusations have been strenuously denied by Demetriou, who published a number of full-page adverts in national and local newspapers claiming the reports to be a ‘deceitful campaign’ based on ‘unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods.’
The Crown representative has often found himself on the back foot during the proceedings, and this week he was accused of reading from a series of notes as he gave evidence at the inquiry via video. Demetriou noticeably looks down when asked if h could explain the role of an independent company director.