SYDNEY: Crown Resorts Ltd and Australian government agencies will be investigated after allegations of money laundering at the firm’s casinos and the fast-tracking of visas for wealthy overseas gamblers.
The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers, along with the 60 Minutes television programme, said at the weekend that a lawmaker and two government ministers had lobbied border-enforcement authorities to speed big-spending Crown gamblers through immigration.
Attorney General Christian Porter said yesterday he had referred allegations to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which will determine whether a further probe is needed.
“There are sufficient concerns raised to at least warrant further investigations, ” Porter told parliament.
Crown shares dropped after Porter’s referral raised the possibility of an extended investigation hanging over the company. It’s another blow to Crown and its biggest shareholder, Australian billionaire James Packer, two years after a Chinese court convicted 19 current and former employees of illegally promoting gambling.
Crown lost as much as 4.7% before trading down 2.1% at 2:12 pm in Sydney. The shares had fallen 3.2% on Monday.
The wide-ranging reports alleged Crown used junket operators linked to drug traffickers as it sought to attract wealthy Chinese gamblers to Australia.
Together with Australian officials, Crown helped hundreds of high-rollers gain entry to Australia each year, and at least one Asian crime syndicate was laundering money through the firm’s casinos, according to the reports.
The publication of the claims triggered separate calls by independent lawmakers on Monday for an investigation by a parliamentary committee. The ACLEI, as the agency is known, has the power to apply for search warrants and seize evidence, making it a better-resourced body to investigate, Porter said yesterday.
Crown said in a statement Monday it had a “robust process for vetting junket operators” that are regularly reviewed. The firm also said it has a comprehensive anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program that is subject to supervision by the financial crimes agency, Austrac.
The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment yesterday. — Bloomberg