UN banned businessman is a Crown Casino high roller

by William Brown Last Updated
Journalist wins award for breaking Crown Resorts junket story

A businessman who was blacklisted by the United Nations and Australia for funding a war criminal was a Crown Resorts VIP room gambling high roller despite being subject to international sanctions.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have reported Joseph Wong was hit with financial and travel sanctions by the UN Security Council in 2004 over his relationship with Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. However, after these sanctions being placed, he repeatedly visited Crown’s high-roller rooms in Australia, confidential gambling records obtained by the publications.

Wong’s firm appeared on a UN Security Council sanctions blacklist for smuggling arms to Taylor, who was later indicted at The Hague for offences including murder, terror and rape.

Despite this, Wong seemed to freely entered Australia, where he gambling and losing more than $6 million at Crown in Australia between 2010 and 2018, according to The Saturday Paper.

The revelations about Joseph Wong’s activities at Crown’s Melbourne and Perth casinos suggest Crown may have sought the custom of big spenders without subjecting them to adequate screening and failing to detect high rollers for connections to money laundering.

Wong’s Security Council listing was endorsed by the federal government in April 2006 which should have prevented him entering Australia. The leaked records detailing Wong’s gambling reveal that he made multiple visits to Crown with an Indonesian high-roller business that was paid by Crown to attract extravagant gamblers.

Not answering specific questions to Wong, a Crown spokesman said it took “all of its obligations very seriously, and has no interest in being used by criminal elements”.

“In support of this, Crown works closely with Australia’s law enforcement and regulatory agencies on a range of matters, and assists in providing information for ongoing and new investigations.”

Regulation board asks for more time to conduct investigation

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation has recently asked for more time to conduct its own investigation into Crown’s junkets.

In a statement relating to Wong’s activities in Australia, a Home Affairs spokesman said “the department is aware of this case”.

“The department thoroughly investigates instances of misuse of the visa system,” the spokesman said, which appears to be a reference to its decision in 2018 to ban Wong from entering Australia on character grounds.

Wong’s organisation, the Oriental Timber Company, has been implicated by the United Nations and overseas authorities in smuggling arms to Taylor and financing his regime. Taylor’s regime was responsible for crimes against humanity carried out in Sierra Leone in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The UN Security Council in 2008 reported publicly that “Joseph Wong … received more than $8.5 million” in likely illicit funds. Money that it urged UN members to freeze.

In August 2010, Wong travelled to Perth from Asia on a private jet where he gambled at Crown’s high-roller room in Burswood. In late 2013, Wong lost over $4 million at the Mahogany Room at Crown’s Melbourne casino.

In 2015, the UN lifted its sanctions regime that had named Wong and other supporters of Taylor. This was following the former Liberian president being jailed in the UK for overseeing a campaign of murder, rape and terror.

In 2018, Wong flew back into Australia where he lost $2 million in Crown’s high-roller rooms.

The news on Wong follows other controversies related to the casino giant. Video footage was shown earlier this week of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash being handed over from a shopping bag in a high-rollers’ room at Melbourne’s Crown Casino which sparked calls for a Royal Commission. On Tuesday, about 1000 Crown staff and their supporters marched on the Melbourne casino on Tuesday where they are fighting for better pay and job security.

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