Crown casino’s links to Asian organised crime exposed easier to move “black money” through Crown than a bank
… A criminal syndicate known as ‘The Company’ run by Triads used Crown-linked bank accounts and high roller rooms to launder its funds
‘The Company’ has wreaked more harm in Australia over the last 30 years than any other drug importer, according to more than a dozen serving and former regional policing sources.
AND with Australia’s real estate awash with ‘black money’ …
Crown casino’s links to Asian organised crime exposed
By Nick McKenzie, Nick Toscano and Grace Tobin
July 27, 2019
Casino and hotel operator Crown Resorts went into business with tour operators backed by Asia’s most powerful organised crime syndicates as part of its program to attract Chinese high rollers to its casinos.
Crown, which is part-owned by one of Australia’s richest men, James Packer, may also have exploited weaknesses in Australia’s visa processes to fly VIP gamblers into Australia without sufficient vetting.
*An investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes can reveal that a criminal syndicate known as “The Company” used Crown-linked bank accounts and high-roller rooms to launder its funds, with Crown licensing and paying syndicate members to generate turnover in its Melbourne and Perth casinos.
Multiple sources claim Crown’s desire to reap millions from the Chinese high-roller market led it to not only breach Chinese anti-gambling laws, but to partner with junket operators with links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers and Chinese government influence agents.
Junket operators are agents who specialise in marketing overseas casinos in China, recruiting high-stakes punters, arranging credit for them and, later, chasing bad debts.
Industry analysts, the US government and Australian law enforcement officials say some junkets are legitimate, but others are controlled by Asian organised crime groups known as triads.
*The Company, an Asian organised crime congolmerate run by triad bosses, is estimated to have wreaked more harm in Australia over the last 30 years than any other drug importer, according to more than a dozen serving and former regional policing sources.
*A federal police interview with one junket represenative secretly working for The Company – Roy Moo – reveals he told investigators he was hired by The Company’s Australian network “because of his contacts at Crown Casino”, “mutual trust,” and because laundering money through the casino was “easier than using a bank”.
The 2013 interview was released to The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes in April by a Victorian judge. More recently, close ties between The Company and other Crown-licenced junkets have been confirmed by law enforcement sources.
For instance, a high-ranking Macau member of The Company, whom The Age and the Herald have elected not to name, has been directly licensed by Crown to operate in Australia as one of Crown’s junkets. He was paid $250,000 by Crown in 2016 in return for bringing high rollers to Australia.
In one trip in August 2015, this criminal identity flew into Crown Perth on a private jet with other Company members, including a notorious triad drug trafficker from Guangdong. The group turned over $800 million in a single trip, according to multiple sources.
Crown’s attempts to attract high rollers to its casinos in Melbourne and Perth was the target of sweeping Chinese government anti-corruption crackdown in October 2016 resulting in the arrest of 19 serving and former Crown employees in China.
Melbourne father-of-two Jason O’Connor – Crown’s head of “international VIP” programs and one of its top executives – was among those convicted of promoting gambling, a criminal offence on mainland China where gambling is outlawed.
Sentenced to jail terms, O’Connor and two other employees were the last to be released from a Shanghai detention centre, in August 2017.
In a statement, Crown Resorts said that, as there was a class action by investors being pursued in relation to the detentions, it could not comment on specific allegations, though it denied any breach of China law and said it had not been charged with an offence in China. It “refutes any suggestion that it knowingly exposed its staff to the risk of detention in China”.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn lodged the class action against Crown after its share price plunged when the employees were detained in China. Crown is defending the action, which alleges the company knew or should have known about the risks.
In addition to its own marketing staff, Crown for years relied heavily on junket operators to promote its casinos to Chinese high rollers, arranging them lines of credit and, later, chasing bad debts. Such activities are illegal in China.
Complex financial transactions, organised by the junkets, allows high rollers to gamble with millions of dollars, even though it is illegal to take more than $3000 off the Chinese mainland.
Some of the junkets take advantage of this gambling money to launder their own funds or those of crime syndicates.
How junkets work
The Company’s primary business is ice and cocaine trafficking but the Asia-based organisation has repeatedly exploited Crown’s reliance on junket operators to launder drug funds through Crown bank accounts or high-roller rooms.
The Company’s members have controlled or exerted significant influence over at least three Crown-licensed junkets operating in Australia but headquartered in Macau or Hong Kong.
*The exploitation of Crown by The Company for money laundering was first exposed in 2013 when federal agents arrested a licensed Crown junket representative, Roy Moo, and demanded Crown hand over CCTV of his transactions.
*The vision, obtained via court order, shows Mr Moo dumping bundles of cash from a plastic bag at a Crown cashier to wire via Crown’s accounts to Hong Kong where it was collected by The Company’s drug shipment operations manager.
An Age, SMH & 60 Minutes investigation reveals the junkets, the money and influence powering Crown Casino.
*The Crown junket operator Mr Moo told police it was easier to move “black money” through Crown than a bank. He was jailed by the Victorian Supreme Court for laundering almost $1 million in funds for The Company.
But after his jailing, Mr Moo was quickly replaced by the other junkets controlled by the Company and which enable to it and other triad groups to continue to launder cash through Crown, according to serving and former law enforcement officials from across the region.
On its relationships with junket operators and individuals, Crown’s statement said, “Crown does not comment on its business operations with particular individuals or businesses,” but that it has a comprehensive” anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program in place, “which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC.”
Earlier this year, billionaire James Packer committed to sell half his stake in Crown in May to Macau gaming magnate Lawrence Ho for $1.76 billion. Packer still owns 36 per cent of the $8.6 billion company, but is selling down to 20 per cent in September.
Through his lawyers, Mr Packer said last week he “adamantly” insisted he had no knowledge of the conduct of the company’s operations in China.
Mr Packer, who has suffered from mental health issues, has not held an executive position at the company since 2012. He was chairman of Crown Resorts until August, 2015, and a board member until December that year. He played only a “passive role” at Crown, according to the lawyer’s letter.
Crown’s Barangaroo casino hotel project in Sydney is due to open in 2022 and will depend on the Chinese high-roller market for a substantial portion of its profits.
For more on this story watch 60 Minutes this Sunday at 8:40pm on Channel 9.
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Nick McKenzie is an investigative reporter for The Age. He’s won seven Walkley awards and covers politics, business, foreign affairs and defence, human rights issues, the criminal justice system and social affairs.
Business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.