Crown Investigations spanning all over Australia
Gaming Giant, Crown is currently being investigated by three separate federal regulators, and the watchdogs in each state it has a physical presence in.
In New South Wales, where Crown’s massive Barangaroo development is rising on Sydney Harbour, regulators are probing whether Lawrence Ho, the person James Packer has sold his controlling stake to, has business links to his controversial Macau gambling kingpin father, Stanley Ho.
Much of these investigations have happened because the Nine Network aired explosive allegations that Crown was doing business with junket operators linked to Asian crime syndicates and failing to prevent money laundering.
On its 60 Minutes program, former Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg claimed that two ministers and another member of parliament had pressed him to fast-track visas for foreign Crown VIPs.
In response, Crown hit back with full-page advertisements signed by every member of the board, which blasted “unbalanced and sensationalised reporting … based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods”.
The ABC report that at Crown’s AGM last Thursday, held in Melbourne, this matter was not discussed.
Executive chair, John Alexander, reportedly batted away questions about the scandals, blaming “interests and activists” with an “anti-Crown agenda” for the issues.
Questions about whether the board had inquired into the revelations against the casino giant, scant consideration beyond just assurances from management that things were fine, were reportedly provided.
The ABC report stated that the AGM had no pictures from inside the meeting, no webcam, no recordings, just ‘a shaky audio feed for registered users’.
In fact, under the Corporations Act, there are only a few standards that must be met for a company’s AGM. It must be held at least once in each calendar year and be preceded by the financial report, director’s report and auditor’s report.
Hearings to be held on Tuesday
On Tuesday, for the first time in its history, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity will hold hearings in public relating to “allegations of corruption in interactions between the Department of Home Affairs and Crown Casino”, meaning the fast-tracking of visas.
Commissioner Michael Griffin said that the agency had only used private hearings in its 13-year history, however this time things were different.
“The matters raised by the Attorney-General in his referral to me, and the significant public interest in those matters, has led me to conclude that this particular investigation will be best served by hearing matters in public where appropriate,” he said in a statement.
The public are able to walk into the County Court from Tuesday to listen with the media being able to first to get pictures and vision of the room and the Commissioner.
A transcript will also be on its website at the end of each hearing day.
Mr Quaedvlieg will be the first witness in the box for the hearing.
In the explosive 60 Minutes episode which drove the formation of these inquiries, the former head of Border Force said he’d been asked to fast-track visas by two ministers and an MP.
Crown’s high-roller revenue, which is traditionally a lucrative but unpredictable source of profit for the organisation that adds a nice top up to the steady stream of core revenue earned from its poker machines, had collapsed by 46% in the three months to the end of June. Alexander put the decrease in this revenue stream down to “difficult trading conditions in the international VIP market”.
He also said that the fall in VIP revenue helped drive a tumble in the company’s profit for the financial year from $573m to $403m.
Revenue from main floor gaming across its Australian resorts, excluding VIP play was up 2% on the prior corresponding period.