Western Australia’s Investigation into Crown Resorts Wraps Up

Posted on: November 17, 2021, 11:32h. 

Last updated on: November 17, 2021, 12:11h.

The third Crown Resorts money laundering probe has now been completed, but the findings are still months away. The casino giant has spent almost two years in the spotlight, and the real mission is finally nearing its end.

Crown, Perth, Australia
Crown Perth, seen above, faces a possible license suspension when Western Australia reveals the results of its investigation into Crown Resorts next March. (Image source: Crown Perth)

The last witness scheduled for the Royal Commission of Crown Perth in Western Australia testified on Wednesday, with Group Chief Compliance Officer and Financial Crimes Officer Steven Blackburn on the stand.

Blackburn took office on February 24 and soon began reviewing the financial crime and compliance programs of the casino giant of the time. He reported to the board in May, outlining the improvement plan, and explained that, at the time, Crown jointly had a program that met effective requirements to manage the risks of financial crimes. But he also acknowledged during his testimony that more could have been done.

“However, there were opportunities for considerable enhancements across all elements of the ecosystem,” Crown’s Steven Blackburn admitted.

The committee, consisting of former Supreme Court judges Neville Owen and Lindy Jenkins, and former auditor Colin Murphy, will meet at the end of January to hear the final presentation, which is expected to last for three days. The results are scheduled to be released on March 4.

The committee previously said that the time line would give enough pause to digest the findings last month of the Royal Commission of the Victorian investigation. Those findings painted an even grimmer picture of Crown’s failings than did the investigation in New South Wales (NSW).

Victoria’s Ruling Could Hint at Western Australia’s Position

Commissioner Raymond Finkelstein said the Victoria State Government had “slightly reluctantly” decided not to recommend the removal of Crown Melbourne’s gambling license. That’s even though it was on the table. Finkelstein asserted that Crown had been involved in “disgraceful … variously illegal, dishonest, unethical, and exploitative” conduct for years.

Crown’s new $ 2.2 billion Sydney venue has been denied a gambling license after the NSW findings were broadcast. But its bars, restaurants, and more have been open since last December, despite the lack of a casino.

A study led by Patricia Burgin called the influence of former President James Packer “disastrous.” He was the driving force behind getting more Chinese high rollers to Crown’s casinos in the midst of the scandal.

Packer was also the target of the investigation in NSW, but was not called in to testify at the Royal Commission of Victoria. Because of the Victorian Royal Commission, he will need to reduce his stake in Crown, held through Consolidated Press Holdings, from 37% to less than 5%. But the deadline for that to happen is still clear. Packer has previously stated, in unrelated conversations, that he would be willing to take a reduction.

Explosive Testimony

Packer’s testimony in Perth’s investigation was explosive. He acknowledged not having attended any of the board meetings of Burswood Ltd, Crown Perth’s holding company, between 2013 and 2016, despite the fact that criminal gangs were moving into the VIP gaming facilities. Packer admitted that he “should have attended or resigned.”

Crown, which destroyed the board as a result of the scandal, still faces the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) for the management of its casinos in Perth and Melbourne.