Crown Resorts probe delayed as more witnesses come forward
A public analysis of potential corrupt conduct involving gaming giant Crown Resorts and the Department of Home Affairs has been placed on hold after the availability of a key witness came into doubt.
The Age reports that in a sign that the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI) probe could be broadening, the federal law enforcement watchdog also said a delay was necessary because “a number of key witnesses have recently come forward with new information”.
The public hearings into Crown’s dealing with Home Affairs are now on hold.
The ACLEI said on Monday that its first ever public hearing, scheduled to start in Melbourne on Tuesday, would be delayed following “the availability of a key witness has become in doubt due to unforeseen personal circumstances”.
New dates for the public hearings will be soon announced by the agency.
Scheduled to be heard during the hearings is Australian Border Force commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg, who in a major media investigation into Crown Resorts told The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes that two ministers and another MP had lobbied him to help “smooth out” the border security processes for the casino’s Chinese high-rollers.
Mr Quaedvlieg claimed that Crown wanted its big gamblers to be able to “land on a private jet at Melbourne airport, receive the minimal amount of clearances, put them in cars, get them into a casino and spending money.”
Australian Border Force (ABF) deputy commissioner Mandy Newton and the Department of Home Affairs’ first assistant secretary Peta Dunn had also been called to speak at the hearings. The agency has within its power, the ability to coerce witnesses to give evidence.
Inquiry launched following media investigation
The ACLEI’s inquiry was launched after The Age, SMH and 60 Minutes reports on Crown’s efforts to attract ultra-wealthy Chinese gamblers to its casinos located in Melbourne and Perth, which involved sometimes the assistance of firms backed by powerful Asian crime gangs.
“While over its 13-year history ACLEI has primarily chosen to progress investigations through the use of private hearings, 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,” Michael Griffin, Head of the ACLEI said
The media investigation also uncovered that a serving ABF official, Andrew Ure, provided private protection for an international fugitive who was recruiting VIPs to gamble at Crown, in possible breach of the ABF’s strict professional standards.
The ACLEI hearings are set to take place as the New South Wales gambling regulator runs its own inquiry into Crown’s behaviour, and James Packer’s sales of a 20 per cent stake in Crown to Hong Kong casino tycoon Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts.
Crown’s executive chairman, John Alexander, has previously said that the company would use state and federal inquiries launched into its dealings with Chinese gambling tour operators, which are known as junkets, as a “forum to provide our perspective”.
Crown Resorts is one of Australia’s largest entertainment groups with it’s core businesses and investments being in the integrated resorts sector.
In Australia, Crown owns and operates two of the country’s leading integrated resorts. Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth. Crown’s development projects in the works include the Crown Sydney Hotel Resort at Barangaroo in Sydney and the One Queensbridge development site in Melbourne.
Outside of Australia, Crown owns and operates Crown Aspinalls in London, which is considered one of the high-end licensed casinos in the West End entertainment district.