WA AML unit should never have been disbanded, inquiry hears

Western Australia's inquiry into Crown Resorts continues.
Western Australia's inquiry into Crown Resorts continues.

Western Australia’s former chief casino officer, David Halge, has said that an anti-money laundering police unit that has been dismantled in 1999 could have helped to prevent money laundering at Crown Resorts.

Australia.- At the beginning of a third week of public hearings, Western Australia’s Royal Commission into Crown Resorts has heard from David Halge, former chief casino officer.

He told the inquiry that an anti-money laundering (AML) police unit dismantled in 1999 could have helped Western Australia’s Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC) to investigate potential criminal activities.

David Halge said the AML unit comprised a single person whose work solely entailed investigating junket operators. Halge said explained that person analysed junket operators and reported any criminal activity to the GWC.

He said: “Once the police unit was disbanded, I didn’t need to take any report up to the commission that was brought to me by the inspectors concerning criminal activities or money laundering.”

Halge suggested that Gaming and Wagering Commission member Barry Sargeant should be asked why the AML police unit was dismantled.

A week ago, Sargeant said the GWC was aware of risks of criminal conduct but did not have the resources or knowledge to deal with it.

Sargeant added that GWC would rely on the WA Police and the Australian Federal Police despite having the power to order investigations.

Sargeant’s testimony came after the head of the GWCDuncan Ord, admitted he had no formal training in casino regulation before assuming the role.

Sargeant also said he had reservations about the appointment of Mark Beecroft as chief casino officer after Michael Connolly stepped down following revelations about his social relationship with Crown staff. Howeverhe said that he did not raise concerns because he could not think of an alternative.

Ord, in his own testimony, made mention of Michael Connolly, Western Australia’s former chief casino officer, who stepped down after revelations about his social relationship with Crown staff.

According to Ord, Connolly had previously notified the gambling regulator that he had personal friendships with Crown Perth staff but it was only decided that he should step aside when the matter received media attention.

Ord said he did not seek any advice from any other members of the commission about the decision and said: “I believe that it was appropriate to accept that, and in doing so, we were wanting to show we were ensuring the integrity of the Gaming and Wagering Commission.”

Western Australia’s Royal Commission expects to deliver an internal report by June 30 and a final report by November 14.

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