Burswood casino boss called out at royal commission

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Perth casino chief officer quizzed by royal commission

The evidence given to the Perth casino royal commission given by the chief executive of Crown Perth in Burswood has been called out by a former Crown executive.

The Australian Financial Review reports that former top Crown executive Barry Felstead said the new chief of the Burswood casino, Lonnie Bossi, who was the casino’s chief operating officer, would have known about the existence of a key bank account that was set up for high rollers linked to junket programs tod deposit cash.

Mr Bossi told the inquiry he “didn’t recall” knowing about the account despite being a signatory.

The account, known as Riverbank Investments, was revealed in 2020 in the NSW Bergin inquiry, which found Crown unfit to open its Sydney casino, to have processed hundreds of millions of laundered money.

In 2014, ANZ closed the account due to money laundering concerns.

Crown then opened an account with the Commonwealth Bank, which closed the account in 2019, citing similar concerns.

Mr Felstead was the head of Crown Perth and Melbourne in his role as chief executive officer of Australian Resorts until his position was axed after the Bergin inquiry heard he knew China-based Crown staff were afraid for their safety before 19 were arrested and 16 served jail time for illegally promoting Crown’s high roller junkets.

Riverbank Investments account called into question

When counsel assisting the royal commission Michael Fuetrill, SC, asked who at Crown Perth in Burswood knew about the Riverbank Investments account, Mr Felstead pointed to key executives, including Mr Bossi.

“To know knowledge, who else in the Crown Perth group knew of the existence and operation of the Riverbank Investments accounts?”

“That would have been Mr Joshua Preston, Mr Bossi, the finance team, the cage team, obviously treasury, that was a group role, they set up the accounts,” Mr Felstead told the probe.

When counsel assisting the inquiry Patricia Cahill, SC, asked why he didn’t inquire about the reason CBA closed the account.

Mr Bossi said he “actually didn’t recall being a signatory” on the account.

“The bank account has now been closed by two banks and you’re still not alive to any concerns to find out the reason why?” Ms Cahill put it to him.

“A number of years had passed, and I wasn’t involved in the banking work that was going on. Hindsight, a wonderful thing, I should have inquired further than I did,” Mr Bossi said.

Both deny knowing the account was used to launder money.

Fewster makes feelings known

Crown Perth’s independent director Maryna Fewster, a trusted Stokes family lieutenant as chief executive of Seven West Media in WA, told the commission she had raised concerns with Crown chairman Helen Coonan and former Crown director John Poynton about Mr Bossi’s appointment, given he was likely to appear as a witness at the royal commission.

A five-person board oversees Burswood Limited nominally, but the commission heard that it did not meet for five months in early 2021, despite Crown Resorts having 18 meetings in that time and that some meetings lasted less than 30 minutes.

Appearing before the commission, Seven West Media CEO and Burswood Limited director Maryna Fewster said the board was not fit for purpose and lacked independence from Crown Resorts.

The Victorian royal commission heard in July that money laundering may have occurred at Crown’s Melbourne casino as recently as May, while the latest risky transaction recorded at Perth was in June.

Crown made a statement to the market on August 2, saying it has legal advice from two senior counsel stating it does not owe up to $480 million in tax, as claimed by the counsel assisting the royal commission.

The casino giant said it will await the casino regulator’s final decision on the matter after the royal commission delivers its report in October.

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