Macau casino operator has documents seized

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated

A Macau casino operator vying for half of James Packer’s stake in Crown casinos has been embroiled in a political bribery investigation in Japan.

The Brisbane Times reports that news of the investigation came hours after sweeping changes to Crown’s board were announced in Australia.

Asian media outlets reported yesterday that authorities had seized documents from the Tokyo office of Melco Resorts and Entertainment between January 17 and 20.

The reports said the raids related to a public prosecutor’s investigation into a Japanese parliamentarian, Tsukasa Akimoto, who was arrested on January 14 on suspicion of accepting a bribe from a Chinese corporation.

Melco confirmed to The Sunday Age that the raids had taken place but had no further comment.

On Friday, Crown Resorts’ most senior board member John Alexander stepped down as executive chairman of the embattled casino group as part of its sweeping governance overhaul.

The company also announced that former Liberal senator and current board director Helen Coonan would take over as non-executive chairman of Crown.

Chief financial officer Ken Barton will be elevated to chief executive officer and former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou will become chairman of Crown in Melbourne.

The changes come as Crown faces intense scrutiny from a public inquiry into the company and the future of its casino licence in Sydney.

That in turn followed revelations in The Age that Crown went into business with “junket” tour operators linked to organised crime.

Mr Packer, Crown’s billionaire controlling shareholder, has been called to appear at the inquiry as has Mr Alexander.

Mr Packer struck a deal last year to sell almost half his stake in Crown to Melco Resorts for $1.7 billion, which now hangs in the balance.

That deal – to sell a 20 per cent block of Crown shares – would be the most significant step Mr Packer has taken in his retreat from corporate life, following his resignation from the Crown board and his private investment company in 2018 because of his mental health issues.

At the time of the sale in May last year, Melco signalled it was interested in taking full control of the company, which could have resulted in Mr Packer making a complete exit.

That came hot on the heels of aborted takeover talks with US casino giant Wynn Resorts.

Packer’s new yacht ready to set sail

James Packer’s biggest ever mega yacht has taken four years to complete and the budget has blown out by $50 million, but the Los Angeles-based billionaire is about to set sail into a whole new world of luxury.

The Daily Telegraph reported in July that with a final cost of $200 million, the 108m giga yacht is among the biggest in the world.

It will be the second time the casino mogul has named a boat using the initials of his children.

This vessel is called IJE and his previous superyacht was EJI, after his children Emmanuelle, Jackson and Indigo.

The boat’s construction had been overseen by Mr Packer’s great mate Matthew Csidei, who was in charge of the “ministry of fun”, Mr Packer’s portfolio of planes, boats and homes.

But Mr Csidei mysteriously left Mr Packer’s private investment company CPH in 2017.

The giga-yacht’s budget ballooned from the original $150 million and it was long delayed launching out of the Benetti shipyard in the port city of Livorno, Italy.

It has since hit the water and Mr Packer is expected to step on board in coming weeks.

The boat’s handover comes as things are looking up for Mr Packer after several torrid years, marred by an ugly bust up with singer Mariah Carey and his revelation he was suffering mental health problems.

In May, he pocketed $1.8 billion selling part of his shares in his Crown Resorts casino empire to Chinese gaming mogul Lawrence Ho

Earlier this month, he was snapped with girlfriend Kylie Lim in Capri.

The new vessel features a cinema, fire-pit, heated swimming pool and 1000 square metre open deck space.

It’s an upgrade from the days when Mr Packer owned the nine-bedroom $50 million Z Ellerston yacht and leaves in its wake his late father Kerry Packer’s old converted icebreaker Arctic P.

Mr Packer’s sister Gretel took the 88 metre Arctic P in the settlement the siblings reached over their father’s estate two years ago.

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