Australia: Crown threatened to call in minister over watchdog’s money laundering push

Crown Resorts’ former top legal officer threatened to call Victoria’s gaming minister and complain that the state’s gambling watchdog was pushing it to adopt stronger measures to guard against money laundering at its Melbourne casino.

Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) licensing manager Jason Cremona told the state’s royal commission into Crown on Tuesday that the casino responded “pretty aggressively” to his May 2019 letter raising concerns it had failed to act on a key recommendation from its 2018 licence review.

The VCGLR had told Crown to start recording how many millions of dollars each high-roller was betting during “junket” gambling tours at Crown by July 1, 2019, to address the risk their anonymity was enabling money laundering. But by May 2019 it was apparent Crown had taken no steps towards implementing that, prompting Mr Cremona’s letter.

Mr Cremona said he received a phone call the next day, on May 23, from Crown representative Michelle Fielding, who told him the group’s then chief legal officer Joshua Preston was “furious” and would probably “call the minister to complain”.

“I was clearly taken aback by the tone, the aggressive nature,” Mr Cremona told Commissioner Ray Finkelstein, QC, in the inquiry’s second day of public hearings. “Referencing calling the minister is almost like: well we take offence to what you said and we are going to take action.”

Commissioner Finkelstein asked if Mr Cremona thought Crown’s intention was to get the VCGLR to withdraw its requirement for Crown to act on the recommendation.

“Yes to an extent,” Mr Cremona responded. “But I was pretty solid in my position… there was no evidence Crown was taking any action to address recommendation 17 in line with our expectations.”

Mr Preston left Crown last year after being grilled for several days at the NSW Bergin inquiry, which found the company was unfit to hold a casino licence in part because it had facilitated money laundering at its Melbourne and Perth casinos. There is no evidence Mr Preston did call Victoria’s gaming minister, which at the time was Marlene Kairouz, who stepped down from cabinet last year after The Age and 60 Minutes reported on her involvement in a branch-stacking scandal. Ms Fielding remains at Crown in a senior legal role.

The original full article can be found at brisbanetimes.com.au

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