Crown legal chief dismissed money-laundering risks, inquiry hears

Victoria's Royal Commission continues its hearing into Crown Resorts.
Victoria's Royal Commission continues its hearing into Crown Resorts.

Crown’s anti-money laundering manager Nick Stokes said he tried to raise the issue of money-laundering risks and prevention strategies but was not heard listened to.

Australia.- On a new day of public hearings by Victoria’s Royal Commission, Nick Stokes, Crown Resorts’ head of financial crime, said Crown’s former legal chief Joshua Preston ignored his concerns about money-laundering risks.

Stokes also said he tried to increase the anti-money laundering team at Crown Resorts, which only had three staff members, but that Preston had said it wasn’t necessary.

According to ABC Newspaper, Stokes said: “He would hear me out and he would listen to my views, but on many occasions, he was of the view that ‘casinos had always been that way and that a casino’s not a bank, and the same rules didn’t quite apply’.”

However, Stokes said things had changed at Crown Resorts and that he now has a team of 20 anti-money laundering staff.

Stokes assured: “I have seen that attitude change quite considerably to the point where the business now is very proactive in taking on those first-line responsibilities … we are looking to build the team further.”

Crown’s former legal head, Joshua Preston, stepped down from the company after telling the NSW Bergin inquiry he was unaware whether junket operators were linked to organised crime.

In February, the GWC prohibited Crown Perth from conducting any junket, premium or privileged player activity. Crown Resorts said last September that it had suspended all junket-related activity until June 2021.

Counsel assisting the royal commission Penny Neskovcin said she received a letter from Crown Resorts in which the company said it did not intend to deal with international junket operators in the future.

VCGLR licensing manager accuses Crown of delaying AML controls

Jason Cremona, licensing manager at the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) told Victoria’s Royal Commission that Crown had sought to delay the introduction of tighter money-laundering controls.

Cremona said the Victorian regulator gave the casino 11 months to comply with 20 recommendations but that a year later, in July 2019, Crown Resorts had made no move to start recording high rollers’ names and transactions.

Cremona then sent a letter to Crown’s chief legal officer Joshua Preston to say the casino was at risk of not complying with the recommended protocol.

He then received a phone call from Crown executive Michelle Fielding saying Preston was “furious” and that he was going to “call the minister to complain.”

Timothy Bryant, a compliance officer at the VCGLR said Crown Resorts lied to him about the arrest of 19 Crown executives in China in 2016.

Bryant said he believed that in some interviews Crown Resorts had lied to him as to “what they were not aware of or were aware of.”

Victoria’s Royal Commission has also received several written submissions accusing Crown Resorts of causing gambling addiction.

Ai Nguyen, a gambling counsellor at the Australian Vietnamese Women’s Association, said Crown Resorts’ 24/7 operating hours, its rewards system and a weak self-exclusion programme failed to help people with gambling problems.

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