Crown bank accounts review met pushback
A request from the New South Wales casino regulator for a review of Crown Resorts’ bank accounts from the past nine years was met with opposition by the organisation, the Victorian royal commission into the operator has heard.
The Australian Financial Review reports that the James Packer-backed group tried to reduce the term of reference of the bank account review from nine years to three years.
The royal commission heard that Deloitte’s review of Crown’s accounts as part of the casino giant’s efforts to win back its New South Wales casino licence excludes internal customer accounts that may “reveal criminal activity”.
The commission also heard evidence that cast doubt on indications Crown had already breached one of its new anti-money laundering policies and was still facilitating money laundering as recently as February.
The New South Wales Bergin inquiry found Crown would remain unfit to open its Barangaroo casino in New South Wales “without a full and wide ranging forensic audit of all of their accounts” following revelations of hundreds of millions of dollars that was laundered through its bank accounts.
The $8.7 billion company has implemented new measures to combat financial crime after last year’s Bergin inquiry found it was unfit to open its $2.2 billion Sydney casino.
The Victorian probe is, in part, assessing if the new policies and Deloiette’s review adequately redeems the casino giant.
Deloitte partner recommended seven-year bank account review
Giving evidence on Wednesday, a partner at Deloitte, Lisa Dobbin, told the inquiry she had suggested a seven-year review of Crown’s bank accounts but Crown’s law firm, Allens, had pushed back to slash the time frame to three years.
Counsel assisting the commission Meg O’Sullivan asked if a “seven-year period is more appropriate than a three-year period”.
“Yes, for the purposes of determining the extent to which there’s been money laundering activity, certainly the longer period gives you a better opportunity to identify that activity,” Ms Dobbin replied.
The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority eventually agreed to a seven-year examination of the accounts, acknowledging Ms Dobbin’s point that “it would be difficult to access records beyond the seven-year period.”
Ms Dobbin also told the inquiry Deloitte would not examine Crown’s internal customer account system known as “DAB accounts”, which record casino patrons’ credits and transactions.
Ms Dobbin agreed with Ms O’Sullivan that these accounts were a “significant area of potential money laundering activity.”
“When you get to the end of this project, you’re not going to be able to say to anyone, whether that be Crown or the ILGA, that there’s no money laundering on the DAB accounts?” Ms O’Sullivan asked.
“No, we won’t be able to say that,” Ms Dobbin said, adding that Deloitte and Crown had viewed Bergin’s recommendation of the review of “accounts” to mean bank accounts only.
“If you consider accounts to mean DAB accounts, then our review is not comprehensively covering all of those accounts,” she said.
In her opening remarks on Monday, Ms O’Sullivan described Crown as engaging in a “pattern of behaviour” to avoid transparency and accountability, even in the wake of the NSW Bergin inquiry.
This comes as it was revealed on Tuesday that at least three reviews Crown has commissioned, aimed at rooting out money laundering across its casinos in the past year, have had limited terms of reference and in some instances, dropped altogether.