Star embroiled in alleged money laundering controversy

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Star embroiled in alleged money laundering controversy

Another Australian casino has been embroiled in suspected money laundering, foreign interference, organised crime and fraud at its casinos.

The Australian Financial Review reports that Star Entertainment has hit out against the allegations, which they say are “misleading” and it promises to address them with regulators.

“The Star is concerned by a number of assertions within the media reports that it considers misleading,” the company said in an ASX statement.

“There are constraints on publicly discussing specific individuals.

“We will take the appropriate steps to address all allegations with relevant state and federal regulators and authorities,” Adam Bell, SC, who is undertaking a regular review of The Star Sydney,” Star said.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes reported on October 10 that Star Entertainment had enabled suspected money laundering, foreign interference, fraud and organised crime at its NSW and Queensland casinos. 

The list of allegations mirrors those levelled at its rival Crown Resorts, which has faced two years of excoriating public inquiries in three states that have threatened its casino licences, forced a sweeping corporate overhaul and seen it declared unfit to run its new flagship Sydney Barangaroo casino.

Five-year review into Star underway

Star has escaped any significant repercussions of the kind faced by its rival operator, but the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has recently launched its five-year review of the company’s Sydney facility under NSW casino laws.

It’s unclear whether Star is facing the same scrutiny on its Gold Coast and Brisbane casinos.

The Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation has been approached for comment.

Among the most serious allegations is the Star board’s apparent neglect to act in 2018 on two confidential reports from KPMG detailing key failures in its anti-money laudnering and counter-terrorism financing procedures.

The reports found the company had not properly vetted wealthy Chinese high-rollers it brought in via junkets, such as the notorious Sun City canvassed in the Crown hearings.

Red flags raised by not acted on by Star

The bombshell revelations also said the company had ignored red flags for problem gambling or money laundering from key patrons and that regulators had identified connections to Huang Xiangmo, who was expelled from Australia in 2018 over foreign interference concerns.

Star did not respond to the allegation that it failed to act on the KPMG reports, but said it operated in a “heavily regulated industry”.

“We are subject to thorough and ongoing regulatory oversight including compliance checks and reviews across the company’s operations in NSW and Queensland,” it said.

“The Star also notes the recommendations of the Bergin inquiry, which were supported by the NSW government on 18 August 2021.

“These recommendations will impact the regulation of casinos in NSW and are supported by The Star.”

The company declined a request to interview chief executive Matt Bekier.

The report also claimed Star continued to deal with Asian junkets well into 2020, despite investigations into Crown casting doubt over their operations.

Star Entertainment Group chairman John O’Neill told media in February 2021 that the company was “out of the junket business until further notice” but didn’t rule out rekindling junket relationships in the future.

The timing of these allegations is notable, coming just hours before Greater Sydney came out of lockdown after more than 100 days and with Commissioner Ray Finkelstein due to hand down his findings from the royal commission into Crown Melbourne this week.

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