Packer and foundation give $4m more to bushfire relief

by Charlotte Lee Last Updated
Packer and foundation give $4m more to bushfire relief

Gaming billionaire James Packer’s family and his casino company Crown Resorts have donated an extra $4 million to bushfire relief charities, in addition to the $1 million it pledged in November.

The Age reports it is the single largest contribution yet made public.

The pledge by the Crown Resorts Foundation and the Packer Family Foundation, announced late on Monday, is it support volunteer fire agencies, relief services and wildlife charities in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

Those states are where Crown Resorts has casinos.

The Packer Family Foundation, run by Mr Packer, his sister Gretel and mother Roslyn, had already pledged $1 million to boost the bushfire response in November.

The latest donation will see the Packers contribute another $1.5 million while Crown will donate $2.5 million

Packer said in a statement that it was inspiring how Australians were supporting each other through the bushfire crisis and he hoped the contribution would play a “small part in helping our firefighters, and easing the suffering of people who have lost their homes.”

Victoria’s Country Fire Authority and New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service will receive $1 million each from the $5 million contribution.

Crown Resorts Foundation chairwoman Helen Coonan said the fires continue to be a tragic event and the foundation is “incredibly thankful for the hard work and sacrifice of our nation’s firefighters.”

It comes as Crown Resorts faces multiple state and federal probes into its affairs sparked by revelations about Crown operations in Melbourne by The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes.

Crown Casino back in the headlines

Crown Casino is once again involved in a corruption scandal, with an inquiry conducted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed that former New South Wales boss Jamie Clements was flown across the country in a Crown Casino jet by Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.

Casino Guardian reported in December that Huang Xiangmo’s executive assistant, Tim Xu, was questioned by the Commission regarding a series of meetings between his former employer and the former general secretary of the New South Wales Labor Party Jamie Clements.

His testimony only confirmed previous allegations of corruption against Clements, who was looking for Labor Party donations.

According to counsel assisting the Commission Scott Robertson, Huang Xiangmo wanted political influence in return.

The New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, based in Sydney, is investigating the New South Wales Labor Party and its alleged attempts to circumvent the donation laws in the state.

Previously, it received evidence that Mr Huang gave Jamie Clements $100,000 cash in a shopping bag.

Both men have denied these claims.

Huang and Clements’ close ties under examination

As a foreign property developer and businessman, Mr Huang is not allowed to donate financially to political parties in Australia.

Now, several messages between Clements and Tim Xu were shown and some of them revealed that Clements and the Chinese billionaire travelled together for business and entertainment on private Crown Casino jets.

During Monday’s hearing, Tim Xu said that Jamie Clements took a Crown Casino private jet in July 2015.

This was during the time when Clements was the general secretary for the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party.

The flight, organised on behalf of Huang Xiangmo, flew out of Sydney’s Mascot airport for Melbourne.

The Chinese billionaire and property developer was a high roller and a VIP patron of Crown Casino Melbourne, according to Tim Xu, who worked as his executive assistant and translator for three and a half years.

The casino is owned by Australia’s top casino operator, Crown Resorts.

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