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Crown Resorts Allowed UN-Sanctioned Arms Trader Linked to Convicted War Criminal to Gamble Away $6 Million

Another day, another PR disaster for embattled Australian casino giant Crown Resorts. This one comes in the form of an alleged arms dealer who was placed on a United Nations sanctions list for aiding and abetting former Liberian president Charles Taylor. In May 2012, Taylor was imprisoned for 50 years by an international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

Charles Taylor, the brutal Liberian warlord and later president of the country, was paid in weapons by Joseph Wong Kiia Tai, who gambled away more than $6 million of his ill-gotten gains at Crown casinos. (AFP/Getty)

Australia’s ABC News reported that the Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth permitted Indonesian businessman Joseph Wong Kiia Tai to gamble at its high-roller rooms, despite the international sanctions that had been imposed on him, which included a travel ban

According to documents seen by ABC, Kiia Tai lost over $6 million during gambling sessions at Crown’s casinos. ABC did not say precisely when these visits occurred, other than they were within the UN sanction period, which was between 2004 and 2015.

According to the UN, Kiia Tai “provided military and financial support” for Taylor’s regime, which was engaged in a vicious civil war that left 150,000 dead.

Decimating Rainforests, Paying in Guns

In order to fund the war, Taylor was stripping the country’s rainforests bare. Kiia Tai, as head of the Oriental Timber Company, was granted logging rights to a quarter of Liberia’s rainforests, which equated to one sixth of all of Africa’s remaining rainforests.

He reputedly bought arms for Taylor rather than pay taxes on the timber, in violation of a UN arms embargo.

At the time, Taylor was intervening in a civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone, for which he was later also convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Kiia Tai was accused by the UN of supporting the Taylor regime “in an effort to destabilize Sierra Leone and gain illicit access to diamonds.”

The report of Kiia Tai’s visits to Crown properties comes just days after video footage was leaked by disgruntled Australian gaming regulators. They showed bricks of cash amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars being offloaded from a large grocery bag into the cash cage at a VIP room at the Crown Melbourne.

Government ‘Aware’ of Kiia Tai Visits

The revelations will raise further questions about how Crown Resorts is vetting its VIP customers and whether it is adhering to anti-money laundering procedures.

A documentary aired by Australia’s Channel Nine last accused the operator of exploiting loopholes in the visa system to fast-track VIPs into Australia without appropriate checks and balances.

The country’s Department of Home Affairs confirmed to ABC that it was “aware” of Kiia Tai’s visits to the Crown, and that it “thoroughly investigates instances of misuse of the visa system and takes action to mitigate against further occurrences, where appropriate.”

A Crown Resorts spokesman said it had “no interest in being used by criminal elements.”

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