AS revealed on 60 minutes for your records!
CROWN Casino the facilitator for the foreign High Net Worth to launder their black money in Australian property … residential, commercial and agricultural …
AUSTRALIA’s biggest export … Our Title Deeds!
AND … Chinese Communist Party influence activities in Australia.
Xi Jinping’s cousin a high roller as Crown comes under pressure over crime, influence
By Nick McKenzie, Grace Tobin and Nick Toscano
July 28, 2019
A cousin of Chinese President Xi Jinping was aboard a private jet for high-roller gamblers when it was searched by federal agents on the Gold Coast in 2016 on suspicion that it was involved in international money laundering.
The initial target of the police search of the jet’s passengers was an alleged criminal fugitive and business partner of Crown Resorts, Tom Zhou. But the search also revealed that one of Mr Zhou’s travelling companions was Mr Xi’s cousin, Ming Chai.
Multiple sources have confirmed that police and security agencies, including ASIO, have since made detailed inquiries about why Mr Chai – a Crown resorts “VVIP” (very, very important person) – was aboard the flight with Mr Zhou, who is an alleged crime figure and Communist Party influence operative.
*A trove of thousands of leaked files from inside the Australian gaming giant shows how Crown and its high-roller agents have encouraged and facilitated the travel to Australia of several figures of interest to police and security agencies.
The files also appear to expose links between Asian criminal gangs known as “triads”, which are involved in high-roller junket businesses, and Chinese Communist Party influence activities in Australia.
Police and security agencies are now asking questions about the movement in and out of Australia of Chinese high rollers with links to the Chinese Communist Party or organised crime syndicates or, in some cases, both.
A number of Crown’s business partners and VVIPs are Australian and Chinese nationals who have led key Communist Party influence organisations in Sydney and Melbourne.
“This underbelly of Chinese Communist Party influence is something that we are only just beginning to understand,” said Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Alex Joske.
The leaked data reveals that Crown had an “emergency channel” with Australian consular officials to fast-track the movement of Chinese nationals into Australia “where we may have hundreds of millions of dollars of turnover at stake”.
“The purpose of the ‘special line’ is not for last minute girlfriend additions … we should try to avoid using our emergency channel unless it is critical,” one leaked Crown email states.
The revelations by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes have shaken the casino giant formerly controlled by one of Australia’s richest men, James Packer. They also raise serious questions about state and federal agencies, including gaming authorities.
Who is Ming Chai?
In a statement, Crown Resorts said of its relationships with junket operators and individuals: “Crown does not comment on its business operations with particular individuals or businesses.”
In 2016 a private jet was searched by law enforcement on the tarmac of Coolangatta airport. It’s passengers were worth billions each, and each held secrets precious to Crown casino.
In a statement through his lawyer, Mr Packer “adamantly” insisted that he had played a “passive” role in the company’s operations. He has not been an executive at the company since 2012 and resigned as chairman of Crown Resorts in August 2015 and as a board member in December that year.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said all visa applications were assessed against the law. “Our offices in China are well aware of the risks … and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly,” the spokesperson said. The department had “no evidence” of conditions being waived for Crown.
A deep relationship
The leaked documents reveal how Crown Resorts formed a deep business partnership with Mr Zhou — an international fugitive, alleged crime boss and the subject of an Interpol red notice,according to multiple security officials with knowledge of the matter. Crown helped Mr Zhou’s associates get Australian visas, according to the leaked Crown data.
The data also reveals Crown’s dealings with Mr Chai, who is also a former Chinese police official and high-rolling Crown gambler.
Mr Zhou has been accused in various Chinese courts of extortion, standover tactics and even arranging for acid to be thrown in a man’s face.
Mr Chai has faced publicly reported corruption allegations in China, though he has never been charged, and is the business partner of Mr Zhou. Both men were aboard the New Zealand-bound jet when the passengers were interrogated by federal agents at Coolangatta airport on August 17, 2016.
Mr Zhou is a multi-millionaire Crown “junket” operator whose “Chinatown junket” specialises in luring gamblers from China to the casinos in Melbourne and Perth. The Australian passport holder also heads three organisations in Melbourne that are aligned to and backed by the Chinese Communist Party, according to material published by these same organisations.
Who is Tom Zhou?
One of them, the Huaxing Art Troupe, answers to the United Front Work Department, the organisation that works to influence Chinese diaspora communities and overseas political systems to advance the aims of the Communist Party.
The search of the private jet revealed the extent Mr Zhou’s networks. In 2016 and 2017, Mr Zhou was paying a suspended Victoria Police Special Operations Group officer, Greg Leather, and other serving and former law enforcement officials to work for him as private security.
Mr Zhou’s dealing with these officials arose after Crown arranged for a firm run by former detectives to help Mr Zhou run his business.
Mr Leather, who has returned to the force after suspension, worked as a security agent for the jet passengers and subsequently worked for Mr Zhou, including advising his associates on how to use weapons on Mr Zhou’s hunting property in rural Victoria.
Serving and former officials have provided security to Crown customers, including Mr Zhou and Mr Chai, on several private jet flights, according to flight records.
Mr Zhou’s alleged involvement in serious criminal activity and violence is documented in several Chinese court cases. The leaked internal Crown files reveal that, on his recommendation, Crown reassured the Australian government that several of Mr Zhou’s Chinese associates were of good character and should be allowed to enter Australia.
“[He is a] friend of our VVIP Mr Zhou,” states one internal email outlining why Crown should vouch for one Zhou associate to the government.
Mr Zhou and Mr Chai’s activities provide a rare insight into the connections between the vast sums of money and politically connected people moving out of China to gamble at Crown, and the Chinese Communist Party’s influence activities.
How a junket can launder money
Twelve serving and former government officials who are aware of aspects of the scandal allege that failures in Crown’s corporate governance were to blame as well as a failure by state gaming regulators and police and security agencies to act on repeated warnings about Crown’s operations.
“For Crown, it’s all about the dollars,” said one official.
Complicating efforts to act has been Crown’s political reach and power.
*Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg has claimed that two federal ministers and one backbencher had lobbied the force, asking it to make it easier for Chinese high rollers to enter Australia on private jets despite agency warnings about some passengers.
“There were ministers that approached the agency, approached me personally, indicating that Crown, and subsequently the junket operators that worked with Crown, weren’t receiving a facilitated service for private jets coming into Australia, into Perth and Melbourne,” Mr Quaedvlieg said.
“[They were] seeking some arrangements which smoothed out the processes … [so they could] land on a private jet at Melbourne airport, receive the minimal amount of clearances, put them in cars, get them into the casino and spending money.”
Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked from the Border Force for assisting his girlfriend, a low-ranking part-time employee, to apply for full-time work.
The president’s cousin
Mr Chai is a former Chinese police official turned Communist Party princeling with impeccable connections to President Xi. Mr Chai’s father — the president’s uncle — is a former high-ranking police official. Mr Chai now has an Australian passport and lists his business address at a mansion in Melbourne’s bayside suburb of Brighton.
Mr Zhou, his business partner, ran a casino promotion empire – known as a junket – that was licensed and partly bankrolled by Crown. Crown relied on his “Chinatown junket” to funnel China’s wealthiest people to its high-roller rooms in Perth and Melbourne and provide them with tens of millions of dollars in gambling credit.
Crown casino’s connections
Mr Zhou’s partnership with Crown began after he fled the justice system in China when authorities there implicated him in serious financial crime. He has also been accused in various Chinese courts of extortion, standover tactics and even arranging for acid to be thrown in a man’s face.
“The facts of a crime are clear and the evidence was reliable and sufficient,” according to one court filing from the Intermediate People’s Court of Wuhan province. It also reveals that Chinese police allege Mr Zhou had been “misappropriating huge amounts of money”. The file states that Mr Zhou “absconded abroad” and would be dealt with “separately”, a likely reference to his Interpol arrest warrant for financial crime.
As well as being one of Crown Resorts’ top 50 Chinese punters – he turned over at least $27 million in 2014 and had a projected turnover of $50 million in 2015 – Mr Chai has formed investment businesses in Australia not only with Mr Zhou but a second Crown junket operator, Simon Pan.
Mr Pan runs a brothel about one kilometre from Crown in Melbourne that has been implicated in the human trafficking of Asian women.
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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.