Tue, Jan 28, 11:18am by Noah Taylor
Crown Resorts’ controversial investor, Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts and Entertainment, is expected to respond to reports that its offices in Tokyo were raided as part of a political corruption probe to casino developments in the country.
The Brisbane Times reports that Melco’s offices in Tokyo were raided between January 17 and 20.
The raids came just days after Tokyo prosecutors arrested Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto on suspicion of accepting bribes from Chinese gambling group, 500.com.
Mr Akimoto, who is in detention, has denied any wrongdoing.
Melco and 500.com are both among the gambling groups bidding for the rights to build three integrated casino resorts in Japan.
Melco established a Japanese local entity and offices in Tokyo, Osaka and Yokohama and submitted IR concepts to multiple local municipalities as part of its application process.
Mr Akimoto had played a central role in crafting government policy for the casino resorts.
In a major expansion of the casino bribery scandal, prosecutors have raided the Tokyo offices of Melco Resorts & Entertainment, one of the top companies bidding for an IR license. Arrested lawmaker Tsukasa Akimoto appears to have visited one of their Macau IRs in 2017. (MP)
— SNA Japan (@ShingetsuNews) January 24, 2020
A Melco spokesman said the company is expected to make a response to the reports once executives are back from Chinese New Year celebrations on Monday.
A Crown Resorts spokesperson said “this is a matter for Melco” and referred all further queries back to the Hong Kong-based company, which holds a 10 per cent stake in the casino operator.
The raiders are an unwelcome development for Melco, James Packer’s former Macau casino partner, which has come under scrutiny after announcing plans to acquire a 20 per cent stake in Crown from Mr Packer in May last year for $1.7 billion.
In August, the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority launched a public inquiry following revelations by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that Crown worked with “junket” tour operators backed by powerful Asian crime gangs and Chinese foreign influence agents.
The inquiry is also considering whether the licence for Crown’s $2 billion Sydney casino was breached when Mr Packer agreed to sell the stake to Melco.
Crown’s Barangaroo licence bans it from dealing with companies and individuals associated with Melco boss Lawrence Ho’s father, Stanley Ho, because of his alleged links to Chinese triad gangsters.
In opening submissions this month, the inquiry heard that one company that acquired an indirect interest in Crown through Melco’s purchase of almost half of Mr Packer’s Crown stake in the company was Great Respect Ltd, which is one of the firms banned from involvement in Barangaroo.
Mr Ho, Mr Packer and some of his close associates, including Crown director Guy Jalland, have confirmed they will appear before the inquiry.
Crown surprised the market with a significant restructure Friday evening, which saw executive chairman John Alexander step down in a sweeping governance overhaul that saw Helen Coonan appointed chairwoman and Ken Barton as chief executive.
Mr Alexander, who is now an executive director at Crown with a 12-months employment contract, will appear before the inquiry.
Crown has offered no further clarification on when Mr Alexander is expected to step back from the business following the overhaul, which was driven by proxy advisers and investors, according to the company.
This includes appointing separate chairmen to the boards of each of its operations in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.
Crown’s new $2.4 billion high-roller casino and hotel, which is under construction at Sydney’s Barangaroo, is due to open early next year.
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