Australia: ‘Fraudulent scam’: Crown faces new money laundering scandal

Crown Resorts faces a fresh money laundering scandal stemming from its illegal practice of accepting credit card payments in exchange for gambling chips through the hotel desk at its Melbourne property.

The casino giant’s chief financial crimes officer, Steven Blackburn, told Victoria’s royal commission into the company he expected a review underway into the credit card transactions would find indications of money laundering, and that the total value of payments could total more than the $160 million already identified.

Crown’s licence for its new Sydney casino is suspended after an inquiry in NSW found it enabled money laundering in its bank accounts, and the credit card payments are a new headache for the James Packer-backed group as Victoria’s royal commission reviews its Melbourne casino licence.

Crown disclosed in June that it had breached Victorian law between 2012 and 2016 by allowing international visitors to make credit card charges of up to $500,000 to their hotel accounts in exchange for casino chips.

Mr Blackburn, who joined the company from National Australia Bank in February, said on Thursday that senior managers should have known the practice – which only came to light because a junior employee raised his concerns at a staff training session in March – could cause legal and money laundering issues.

Commissioner Ray Finkelstein suggested they did know but “simply didn’t care”, because they decided: “we’re not going to interrupt the flow of revenue and if we break a few laws, bad luck”.

Commissioner Finkelstein said it was not an accident that Crown processed the payments through its hotel desk and issued fake hotel invoices.

“The whole thing was a fraudulent scam from the outset and everybody involved would have known that,” he said.

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