Australian Casino Giant Crown Resorts Ripped By Mega AML Fine
Scandal-ripped Crown Resorts–once the plaything of controversial Australian billionaire James Packer–has been fined an unprecedented AUS$450 million (£232.98m/US$301.17m) for serious anti-money laundering failures.
As previously reported in these pages, Crown–Australia’s biggest gambling operator with mega casino-resorts in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth, and the prestigious Aspinall’s Casino, “Aspers” in London’s Mayfair–has been wracked by scandal dating from the time when it was majority-owned by the Packer dynasty, once the nation’s biggest multi-media and entertainment company.
Current Packer shogun James has had a headline-grabbing off-on-off relationship with Canadian pop diva Mariah Carey; while his father, Kerry, was the man who revolutionised cricket with his abortive “Packer Cricket Circus” in the late 1970s.
Crown was bought by private equity kings Blackstone in a bargain US$8.87 billion (£4.59bn/US$5.93bn) deal in June, 2022.
But the sale came with the historic legal tangle involving Far Eastern junkets, accusations of money laundering and serious responsible gambling breaches, focussed on their operations in Melbourne and Perth, and resulting in its casino licence for a new resort in Sydney being withheld under further investigation.
Now Crown has agreed to pay the massive penalty, in tranches over two-years, to draw a definitive line under its myriad betting breaches that have seriously impacted the reputation and operation of gambling in Australia.
In a statement released by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac)–who launched civil penalty proceedings against Crown in May for historic “serious and systemic” AML and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) failings in contravention of the 2006 act at its Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth casinos–, the regulator said:
“[Crown] did not have appropriate systems and controls to manage risks.
“[Crown] allowed high-risk activities to take place in its casinos, without intervention, on an ongoing basis.”
For example, Crown continued to do business with a major casino junket operator until 2021 – even though they were aware of his alleged links to Organised Crime.
At a private gaming room at Crown Melbourne (left) between March 2016 and December 2018, for instance, there were at least 75 suspicious “incidents” involving over AUS$23 million in cash (£11.9m/US$15.39m).
“The casino industry by its very nature faces serious risks of exploitation by criminals seeking to launder profits of illicit enterprises,” affirmed Acting AUSTRAC Chief Executive Peter Soros.
“These criminals make money by harming the community, whether by running scams, selling illicit drugs or trafficking innocent people.
“AUS$450 million is one of the largest penalties ever ordered against a casino globally.
“It serves as a clear warning to anyone who provides casino or gaming services in Australia that they must have strong AML/CTF compliance systems and processes that meet their obligations, to protect the Australian community and their businesses from serious financial crime.”
Responded Crown CEO Ciarán Carruthers: “Under new ownership and leadership, we have introduced sweeping reforms as part of our ‘Future Crown’ transformation programme.
“We have invested tens of millions to bolster financial crime compliance and embed global best practice for the gaming sector.
“There is no place for money laundering or terrorism financing at Crown or in our communities.”