Money Laundering Detected at Crown Resorts May Be ‘Tip of the Iceberg,’ Inquiry Hears

Posted on: May 25, 2021, 05:12h. 

Last updated on: May 25, 2021, 10:24h.

The extent of money laundering uncovered by a New South Wales public inquiry into Crown Resorts’ operations could be just the tip of the iceberg, a separate inquiry in Victoria heard Tuesday.

money laundering
Former Judge Ray Finkelstein listens carefully to testimonies during Monday’s hearing of the Victoria Royal Commission into Crown Resorts. (Image: Government of Victoria)

The Victoria probe, known as a royal commission, was triggered by damning findings in New South Wales by former state supreme court judge Patricia Bergin. These included that Crown had facilitated money laundering for criminal gangs and built relationships with junkets linked to organized crime.

The Bergin Inquiry specifically focused on two VIP accounts controlled by Crown that could be used by criminals to launder bundles of banknotes.

Infractions in February

But the Victoria inquiry heard that an ongoing audit by Deloitte has identified 14 more accounts suspected of money laundering. The inquiry claimed the accounts were not examined by Bergin, with some transactions taking place just three months ago.

This raises the possibility that infractions were still happening as recently as February. That at a time when the Bergin Inquiry was in full swing. That investigation resulted in the loss of Crown’s Sydney license. The company hopes this will be temporary, as it implements anti-money laundering (AML) reforms and improves its corporate governance, as recommended by Bergin.

But in Victoria, the license for its flagship Melbourne property is on the line. Just over a week into hearings, things haven’t been going well for Crown.

On Monday, the inquiry also heard that Crown only ordered the Deloitte audit in February, a full seven years after it was first accused in the media of facilitating money laundering.      

The late start to the audit means its findings won’t be ready by August 1. That is the date Victoria inquiry chairman, former judge Ray Finkelstein must report whether he deems Crown suitable for licensing in Melbourne.

‘Knee-Jerk Reforms’

Meanwhile, according to Counsel Assisting the Inquiry Meg O’Sullivan, independent experts have criticized Crown’s efforts to win back its Sydney license, calling the reforms to its AML program “knee-jerk.”

There are serious concerns about Crown’s ability to implement consistent, effective, and sustainable reforms to address its past money laundering,” O’Sullivan said. “Over the coming days, we will look into the past, present and future to consider just how effective Crown’s reform program is.”

Last week, the company’s head of financial crime, Nick Stokes, told the royal commission that when he joined the company in 2019, its AML operations were woefully under-resourced, consisting of just two staff members at its Melbourne property and two more in Perth.

Crown has since made efforts to significantly increase AML staff number, he said.