Crown security measures called into question

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
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Crown security staff didn’t man Crown Resorts’ high-roller rooms featuring triad gang members, despite a warning from Australia’s top police authorities.

The Australian Financial Review reports that despite Crown’s most lucrative junket partner backed by 14K triad gangs was present in its casino, the operator did not station security staff at its high-roller rooms.

The premium gambling rooms on level 39 of the sprawling Southbank complex were also the last places to have facial recognition cameras installed, Crown’s head of security, Craig Walsh, told Victoria’s royal commission into the $8 billion company.

Giving evidence on Friday, Mr Walsh said Crown’s executives in charge of the VIP international program didn’t want security staff placed close to the lucrative gaming rooms, which required millions in front money to access.

“We never had Crown security on level 39, or in any of the premium rooms,” Mr Walsh said to counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio, SC.

“I beg your pardon? Why not?” Mr Finanzio said.

“The business didn’t want security in those areas, unless there was a request for it,” Mr Walsh replied.

He told the inquiry the board had cited “capital expenditure” reasons for refusing to speed up the facial recognition camera rollout.

“My wishes would have been to roll out facial recognition in 2012-13,” Mr Walh said.

Instead, the premium rooms were the last places to be covered, in 2018 or 2019.

This deliberately lax approach to security was revealed as Mr Walsh told the commission of two crucial tip-offs before 2017, though he was uncertain about the exact dates.

Suncity affiliations known to Crown staff

A Hong Kong Jockey Club official told him at a Victoria Police symposium that Crown’s lucrative Suncity junket operator was linked to the triad group, which he reported back to Crown Melbourne’s chief executive Xavier Walsh and recently departed executives, Barry Felstead and Ishan Ratnam.

“Essentially, what he said: ‘Suncity was backed up by the 14K triad [crime gang].’ He was strong on that,” Mr Walsh said.

During that period he was also summoned by the AFP, who told him “pretty directly: ‘we are coming after junkets…AFP and our partners overseas strongly believe it’s drug money.’

“So again I escalated that, and post that we met with a number of areas of AFP around junkets: how they operated, those sorts of things,” he said.

Moments before the commission unexpectedly adjourned, Mr Walsh told the inquiry he had helped put tracking devices on SunCity targets.

“I mean, certainly we had suspicion around SunCity. We were helping them put tracking devices and listening devices in rooms and cars and we knew SunCity were targets of a law enforcement investigation,” Mr Walsh said.

The former Victorian homicide and special operations cop with 12 years of experience at Crown said he had no oversight of Crown’s junket program because security staff were excluded from the high-roller rooms.

It was revealed in 2019 that key junket partners were linked to organised crime gangs, including Suncity, which at the time had a private gaming salon at Crown Melbourne.

That sparked the NSW Bergin inquiry, which found Crown unsuitable to operate its $2.2 billion casino on Sydney Harbour.

It determined Crown had been infiltrated by organised crime and facilitated money laundering.

The Suncity premium players’ room was the site of the “blue cooler bags” footage that shows a patron exchanging bundles of cash for gaming chips. It was also the location of $5.6 million of cash hoarded in a cupboard.

Crown continued to do business with junkets until November last year.

The commission also heard that Mr Walsh told an external Deloitte consultant reviewing Crown’s culture that he did not trust the VIP section.

“We kept investigating people for doing the same thing…inappropriate use of privileges, hiring hotel rooms, buying things on people’s accounts that weren’t on the property, integrity issues essentially,” he said.

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