Crown Resorts is facing a new threat to its casino licences and the prospect of multimillion-dollar fines after it was informed by Austrac, the government agency responsible for anti-money laundering laws that it has identified “potential non-compliance” by Crown Melbourne.
In a release to the ASX, Crown has said the “potential non-compliance includes concerns in relation to ongoing customer due diligence, and adopting, maintaining and complying with an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing program”.
“These concerns were identified in the course of a compliance assessment that commenced in September 2019 and focused on Crown Melbourne’s management of customers identified as high risk and politically exposed persons,” Crown said in a statement.
The investigation by the federal anti-money laundering authority follows evidence before an inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority into allegations of breaches of the Sydney licence.
The inquiry was triggered by plans by James Packer to sell 19.9% to Macau based Melco Holdings, a company controlled by Lawrence Ho.
But, after revelations in the Nine media outlets of alleged money laundering, it has expanded to include activities in the high roller room in Melbourne and alleged relationships with junkets, which recruit and finance high rollers.
These have included allegations of cash being handed over in Aldi bags in the high roller rooms of the Melbourne casino outside of the normal anti-money laundering controls that operate within the casino.
The NSW inquiry has also heard evidence that Crown operated two accounts – Southbank and Riverbank – which were used to allow customers to deposit cash without having to disclose their identities. The accounts for these companies were closed by the ANZ and later by Commonwealth Bank after concerns that deposits were being “structured” to keep them below the anti-money laundering reporting threshold of $10,000.
The Sydney casino at Barangaroo, which will cater to high rollers, is due to open in December.
Last week the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor regulation issued a show cause to Crown relating to its Melbourne casino licence.
Crown is understood to have been expecting an investigation by Austrac, particularly after the evidence before the Sydney inquiry.
The civil penalties that Austrac can impose can run into the hundreds of millions and can be levied on each breach. For example, Westpac has been hit with a $1.3bn penalty for 23m breaches. Commonwealth Bank was ordered to pay $700m.
The company said the matter had been referred to Austrac’s enforcement team, which has initiated a formal enforcement investigation into the compliance of Crown Melbourne.
“Crown Melbourne will respond to all information requests in support of the investigation and fully co-operate with Austrac in relation to this process,” the statement said.