Crown VP authorised questionable wire transfer
A Crown Resorts vice president authorised a junior casino staff member to wire $500,000 to a Melbourne drug trafficker, while Crown withheld details of the transaction from authorities for a year, The Age reports.
The revelation marks the first time since the Crown scandal erupted in 2019 that a senior casino executive has been exposed as facilitating the activities of serious organised crime.
Crown’s vice president of international operations, Veng Anh, authorised the transfer of money to drug trafficker and nightclub operator Nan Hu in January 2017.
Mr Anh likely knew Mr Hu through his Melbourne nightclub, Heaven, which was popular with Crown high rollers.
There is no suggestion Mr Anh knew Mr Hu was a drug trafficker.
However, the ultimate beneficiary of the $500,000 was the Ma heroin syndicate, an Australian-Chinese organised crime group operating out of Melbourne.
Banking and casino records also reveal that Crown Resorts failed to alert anti-money laundering agency Austrac about the transaction.
The casino is legally obliged to tell authorities about suspicious transactions or any movement of funds over $10,000 within three days, but Crown only alerted Austrac a year after the transaction and only after West Australian gambling authorities began making inquiries about it.
The former director of intelligence at Austrac, Todd Harland, said the $500,000 transfer displayed clear indicators of money laundering – taking dirty money and making it look clean.
However, that might not have been immediately clear to mr Ahn when he authorised the transaction.
“Taking cash and putting it through a casino and hopefully turning that into some level of winnings or at least the ability to make it look like it was winnings…that’s money laundering 101.”
The money transfer goes to the heart of the allegations facing the casino giant: that it had a reckless and aggressive approach to cultivating super-wealthy Chinese high rollers which encouraged money launderers and serious organised criminals.
Leaked emails from inside Crown show Mr Anh was also part of a trusted team of senior manager who were sent to China to recruit high rollers, an activity that contributed to the October 2016 arrest and imprisonment of Crown’s China staff.
Questions about Austrac
The revelations about the $500,000 transaction also raise questions for Austrac, the anti-money laundering agency which helps uphold money laundering laws but which has failed to take any meaningful action against Crown.
Law enforcement officials from multiple agencies along with former Austrac staff said the small agency had not done enough to act on the multiple indicators that Crown was enabling money launderers, with Austrac instead directing its litigation resources to high-profile actions against banks.
But sources also said the agency had alerted partner policing agencies about suspicious activity at Crown and, at least until recently, this had led to little tangible action.
Austract previously declined to comment on its dealings with Crown, but has insisted it closely scrutinises all casinos.
Crown’s initial reaction to allegations last year that it had failed in its corporate and social responsibility to counter money laundering was to argue that the media expose that sparked a raft of inquiries was inaccurate.
One of those inquiries, an investigation by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and former judge Patricia Bergin to probe Crown’s fitness to run its proposed high roller casino in Barangaroo, Sydney, opened last month.
Since then, Crown executive chairman John Alexander has stood down and Crown appears to have softened its public response.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission is also probing money laundering at Crown and other casinos.