Preferential visa treatment for Crown high-rollers, inquiry finds

by William Brown Last Updated
Crown’s willingness to ban junkets called into question at Victorian royal commission

A government inquiry has found Home Affairs gave preferential visa treatment to Crown Resorts’ high-rollers.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity found poor record keeping by officials responsible for examining Crown’s high-roller clients who arrived in charter jets, noting that some travellers may have escaped proper baggage checks.

It also found people were issued visas who had previously been refused entry on character grounds.

While the report made no findings of corruption, ACLEI also reveals that a border force official who worked as a bodyguard for a Crown-linked organised crime boss Tom “Mr Chinatown” Zhou quit his government role in January after being questioned about his conduct.

Mr Zhou, who was recently arrested overseas and extradited to China, was a so called junket agent for Crown, whose job was to lure high-rollers, mainly from China, to the casino’s gambling tables.

According to the ACELI report released on Tuesday, the now former border force officer “did not declare, or receive approval from the ABF for secondary employment with the junket agent.”

“He was employed by the junket agent as a bodyguard, mainly as a show for the junket agent’s associates,” the ACLEI inquiry found.

“He should have been aware that his employment could have created a perceived conflict of interest.”

The former border force officer also revealed to ACELI investigators that he helped broker the potential purchase of a Vanuatu casino by Mr Zhou.

Mr Zhou’s extensive dealings with Crown were exposed in 2018.

The reporting at the time revealed the ABF officer’s dealings, with Mr Zhou, and prompted both the ACLEI inquiry and an ongoing public inquiry into Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence in New South Wales.

The ACLEI inquiry report makes clear the organisation only has the power to act on findings of corruption, rather than issues of maladministration that may have endangered the nation’s border security.

“Administrative deficiencies and corruption are not synonymous,” ACLEI explains in its report, even though “poor or lax governance can create a corruption vulnerability.”

Crown admits advertisement claim error

A series of full-page newspaper ads by Crown Resorts misled investors, a New South Wales inquiry into Crown’s fitness to hold a casino licence in Sydney has heard.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported in early September that Crown’s chief legal officer Joshua Preston conceded to the commission that the advertisement which claim its gambling partner Suncity was controlled by a regulated Hong Kong firm “were not part of that listed company.”

Mr Preston said Crown’s junket partnership was actually with Alvin Chau, who is the chairman of the listed company.

Mr Chau is blocked from entering Australia due to his suspected links to organised crime and money laundering.

The advertisements released by the Crown board on July 31, 2019, were in response to articles that pointed out Crown’s licensed junket operators had links to organised crime, drug and sex trafficking and money laundering.

Mr Preston said he and the board were made aware of errors in the statement in the days after the ASX announcement but they had not corrected it to his knowledge.

It is unlawful for a listed company or its officers to provide materially false or misleading information to the Australian Stock Exchange.

There is no suggestion the board intended for the statement to be misleading.

A Crown source close to the board said the casino group had been given inaccurate or misleading information by senior company managers prior to issuing the 2019 statement and that certain directors regretted the decision to release it and the advertisement in response to the news reports.

The statement was intended to reassure regulators, the public and politicians that the gambling giant had not negligently partnered with suspected crime bosses in Macau.

It was signed by Crown’s board of directors, which include former politician Helen Coonan, former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou and former advertising supremo Harold Mitchell.

Corporate records show high stakes gamblers recruited through the junket laid down more than $2.3 billion in Crown Resorts’ Melbourne and Perth casinos in three months during 2015.

Mr Preston told the inquiry that Crown is still working with Zhou Qiyun, who operated the Chinatown junket at Crown.

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