Former Star chairman admits hiring unqualified executives

Executive chairman John O’Neill resigned last week.
Executive chairman John O’Neill resigned last week.

John O’Neil has told New South Wales’ inquiry into the Star Entertainment Group that he was wrong to hire three executives who were not qualified for their jobs.

Australia.- Star Entertainment Group’s former executive chairman John O’Neil has finally given his testimony to the New South Wales inquiry into the company’s fitness to keep its Sydney casino licence. During a hearing originally scheduled for last week, O’Neil admitted that compliance manager Graeme Stevens, chief legal and risk officer Paula Martin and investigations officer Kevin Houlihan were not qualified for their jobs.

O’Neil admitted that he was wrong to promote the three and said the company should have given more thought to training and upskilling them for the roles. Martin has resigned from the company after admitting she could have done more regarding money laundering at the Sydney casino. She agreed that the company misled National Australia Bank about the use of China UnionPay cards at Star Entertainment venues.

O’Neil told the inquiry: “She didn’t have sufficient background and experience in the risk and compliance space.”

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Naomi Sharp SC, asked O’Neill why the company had withheld from AUSTRAC a 2018 KPMG independent audit report that spoke of financial crimes. O’Neill admitted that the company behaved in an inappropriate and non-transparent manner. He highlighted recent board changes, including his own resignation, and said it was necessary to achieve “as much cleansing as possible”. 

The company has named Ben Heap as interim chairman and Geoff Hogg as acting chief executive officer. Both will assume their new roles starting June 1, subject to regulatory approvals. The inquiry is scheduled to go on until August 31.

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The Star Entertainment Group