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Crown embroiled in junket scandal

Mon, Jul 29, 1:08pm by Staff Writer

Crown Resorts paid a brothel owner and alleged money launderer to lure high rollers to its Australian casinos and then provided them with money to gamble, The Age reports.

Multiple sources with knowledge of Crown’s operations have confirmed that Asian sex workers have been flown into Australia on private jets organised by Crown “junket” operators.

Crown has partnered with brothel owner Simon Pan to bring high roller customers to gamble at the casino since 2011, according to Victorian County Court documents, obtained by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes.

Mr Pan owns South Melbourne brothel 39 Tope which is a few minutes drive from the casino precinct and specialises in Asian sex workers and escorts, according to its website.

South Melbourne venue at the centre of controversy

39 Tope has been repeatedly raided by police and subject to sex trafficking investigations between 2008 and at least 2015, while the operations of the brothel have led to major prosecutions of mid-tier workers over breaches of Victorian prostitution laws.

Documents filed in the Victorian County Court in 2015 separately detail Mr Pan’s work as “Junket Representative at Crown Casino” who “arranges people to gamble at a casino and [who] the casino pays …a commission.”

In addition to offering Mr Pan’s junket business lucrative commissions and other incentives to bring high rollers from Asia to Crown, Crown has provided Mr Pan with access to its facilities and banking systems.

The documents show that Mr Pan is the representative at Crown Melbourne for a Macau junket operator, the Kim Teng Jong junket, and has given Crown high rollers millions of dollars to gamble.

Mr Pan’s partnership with Crown raises the prospect that the proceeds from his controversial brothel could be washing through the casino’s high-roller rooms.

It is also possible some of Crown’s big clients are being encouraged to attend 39 Tope – a place where federal police have rescued women they suspect of having been trafficked from Asia.

Documents obtained from South Korean police show that the AFP removed two women suspected to have been trafficked to 39 Tope in 2009, a fact that also has been reported in the media.

Well-placed sources said the investigations into 39 Tope between 2007 and 2015 had resulted in successful organised crime prosecutions of mid-tier brothel workers in the County Court in 2015 and had exposed the exploitative conditions at Mr Pan’s brothel.

The sources said human trafficking charges were not laid because sex workers weer too scared to testify.

Policing agencies have repeatedly filed documents in court identifying Mr Pan as owning brothels involved in serious criminal activity and suspected human trafficking and as having alleged deep ties to organised criminals.

Sources familiar with the agents used by Crown’s high rollers said Asian sex workers have travelled on flights used to transport the super-rich gamblers.

The revelations of Crown’s partnership with Mr Pan comes after The Age and The Herald revealed last Saturday that the casino company had dealings with junkets controlled by Asian crime syndicates, including one of the world’s biggest drug trafficking gangs, which are laundering money and importing drugs into Australia.

Macau holding junket operators to account

Macau is putting its junket operators under tighter regulatory scrutiny following Suncity Group’s week to forget, but have so far found no major infractions.

Calvin Ayre is reporting that Paulo Martins Chan, head of Macau’s Gaming Inspection and Policy bureau told local Portuguese-language TV channel TDM-Macau that the DICJ had conducted snap inspections of 25 VIP gaming rooms in seven Macau casinos on July 10 but failed to detect any signs of illegal activity.

Chan later told GGR Asia that the VIP rooms targeted for these spot checks included some run by the Suncity Group junket, which reportedly controls more than 40 per cent of Macau’s VIP market.

Chan told TDM that neither Suncity nor its chairman Alvin Chau were currently under investigation by authorities in either Macau or mainland China.

The July 10 inspectors came one day after a Chinese state-run newspaper accused Suncity of being among the biggest operators of China-facing online gambling sites.

With the exception of the official lotteries, all gambling is strictly prohibited on the mainland.

Suncity issued a denial of the claims made in the report, but the DICJ summoned representatives of Macau’s junket and casino operators to remind them of the illegality of online gambling within Macau.

Suncity’s Chau staged a press conference last Saturday to repeat his company’s denials of illegal activity, while pledging that it would now conduct all its global operations based on what was and wasn’t legal in Macau.

Suncity operates VIP rooms in other Asia-Pacific casino markets, including the Philippines, which at one point was said to derive half its gaming revenue from proxy betting, in which a customer on the Chinese mainland can wager through a proxy seated at the gaming table who relays real-time card information by phone or video feed.

Macau formally prohibited proxy betting in its VIP rooms way back in 2016, although stamping out the activity completely proved tougher than simply issuing the order.

The use of live streaming via social media such as WeChat has become common among illegal proxy betting operations.

Junkets are under pressure at the moment as Macau’s fabled VIP gambling market continues to shrink. This week, the DICJ revealed that VIP gambling revenue declined nearly 16% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2019, making the second consecutive quarter in which mass market gaming has claimed a larger slice of the market than VIP.

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