Crown denies criminal allegations as probe widens

Crown Melbourne
Crown Melbourne

The board of Crown Resorts has issued a strong rebuttal of allegations that it is linked to criminal figures who may be laundering money through Australian casinos, though the probe into its operations has now widened to include the country’s most powerful investigative body.

An investigative report by The Age, 60 Minutes and the Sydney Morning Herald, which aired over the weekend, also accused the company of liaising with immigration officials to fast-track visas for wealthy individuals.

In a letter posted on its website, Crown’s 11 directors said they were highly concerned for the company’s staff and shareholders, as “much of this unbalanced and sensationalized reporting is based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods.”

The operator clarified its relations with junket operators, pointing out that it is standard practice in international casinos to work with the agents, who are also subject to regulatory oversight.

Crown blasted what it said were mistakes in the reporting, including the fact that a cousin of Chinese President XI Jinping had been found on one of the company’s private jets by law enforcement authorities. The jet was not owned or chartered by Crown, it clarified.

Also, CCTV footage showed a person handing over a bag of cash in a vegetable market, but did not mention that person had been barred from Crown’s casinos six years ago.

“The programme also made various allegations of money laundering, implying that Crown facilitates it, or turns a ‘blind eye’ to it. In fact Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program which is subject to ongoing regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC,” the letter reads.

The directors also rebutted allegations that its behaviour had put employees in danger in China and sought to discredit one of the key whistleblowers in the report, saying she had sought compensation from Crown equivalent to 50 times her annual salary.

Still, Australian authorities are taking the allegations seriously and on Tuesday appointed the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity to look into some of the issues raised, in particular the favourable visa treatment.

Crown said it will fully cooperate in the investigation. 

The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald also reported Wednesday that the head of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Michael Phelan, says federal police and intelligence agencies have uncovered damning “insights and vulnerabilities within casinos in Australia.

He said his probe is targeting the activities of junkets and the report said his comment suggested the inquiry won’t be just limited to Crown’s casinos and may extent to Star Entertainment.