A joint report by Australian media The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes alleged that a Chinese criminal syndicate known as ‘The Company’ used bank accounts and high-roller rooms connected to gaming operator Crown Resorts to launder its funds, with Crown licensing and paying syndicate members to generate turnover in its Melbourne and Perth casinos.
An undisclosed high-ranking Macau member of The Company who was said to have been contacted by the newspapers was said to have indicated he was directly licensed by Crown to operate in Australia as one of its junkets, having been paid A$250,000 (US$172,700) by Crown in 2016 in return for bringing high rollers to Australia.
Junket operators and agents generally partner with gaming operators to connect them with VIP players, with the reports suggesting that Crown partnered with junket agents deeply connected to Chinese criminal organisations to launder money or to evade capital limit transfers from Mainland China.
The reports were said to be based on a leak of internal emails and statements by former Crown representatives and government officials.
The Company’s primary business is said to be the trafficking of ‘Ice’ methamphetamines and cocaine, with junket operations used to launder money.
Recently the Regional Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas, told MNA that Macau’s gaming sector still remains a center for money laundering in the region, mainly due to junket operators.
The 60 Minutes video news report also casts doubts over Crown’s business connection to junket operator Suncity Group – the largest junket operator in Macau – but citing only an internal report by the Hong Kong Jockey Club where the company decided to not deal with the group due to suspicions of connections between Suncity’s key personalities and organised crime figures.
The reports also blame these connections to have led to the Chinese government’s gaming activities crackdown in October 2016 that resulted in the arrest of 19 serving and former Crown employees in China.
In a statement to the newspapers, Crown denied any breach of China law and said it had not been charged with an offence in China, while refuting any suggestion it had knowingly exposed its staff to the risk of detention in China.
In June Melco Resorts & Entertainment Limited announced that it has purchased a 19.99 per cent stake in Australian gaming operator Crown Resorts for some A$1.75 billion (MOP9.8 billion/US$1.2 billion).
The group’s CEO, Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, was undergoing probity review by Australian gaming authorities so he can be included as a board member in Crown.
Australian businessman James Packer continues to own around 26 per cent of Crown through his private investment company CPH, despite having resigned from the boards of over 20 companies in 2018 due mental health issues.