Furious Crown executive threatened to go to minister over regulator’s high-roller concerns, inquiry told

A furious Crown Resorts executive threatened to go to Victoria’s gaming minister after the state’s gambling regulator raised concerns about the company’s reluctance to take action on high-rolling gamblers, an inquiry has been told.

The Victorian royal commission into Crown was told on Tuesday that the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation had advised the company to increase scrutiny of individual gamblers who were part of junket groups in 2018 to limit the risk of money laundering.

Documents tendered into evidence show that the VCGLR’s acting chief executive, Alex Fitzpatrick, wrote to Crown’s chief legal officer, Josh Preston, オン 23 五月 2019 to raise concerns it appeared unwilling to introduce new rules tracking the losses of these high-rollers.

当時の, Crown’s internal processes – known as “internal control statements” – only tracked the total amount of cash, or “front money”, brought in by junket operators.

Crown had been given a year – until 1 7月 2019 – to consult with financial intelligence agency Austrac and beef up the controls, but the inquiry heard that the company had not made any meaningful progress on the issue after 11 月.

“At that stage the alarm bells were ringing relatively loudly,” the VCGLR officer, Jason Cremona, told the inquiry.

“All the key dot points of the recommendation had not been addressed meaningfully, in our view.”

In her letter to Preston, Fitzpatrick said she was concerned Crown might not meet the intended outcomes of the recommendation.

“Based on discussion with commission staff and Crown’s written updates, Crown appears reluctant to undertake a review of any relevant internal control statements (ICSs) with input from Austrac,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

The inquiry heard that the following day, the Crown executive Michelle Fielding telephoned Cremona and told him Fitzpatrick’s letter misrepresented the company’s position.

After the conversation, he wrote an email to Fitzpatrick, which was tendered in evidence at the inquiry.

“Sorry to bother you, but I just thought I would let you know that I got a call from Michelle this morning responding pretty aggressively to the letter,” Cremona wrote.

“Because she said Josh [Preston] was ‘furious’ and would most probably ‘call the minister’, I have just briefed Catherine [Myers, another VCGLR officer] on the matter noting my concerns and that I stand by the risk that was presented to the commission and the response to Crown.”

Asked by counsel assisting the royal commission, Adrian Finanzio SC, why he used the word “aggressive”, Cremona said: “Referencing calling the minister is almost like saying we take offence to what you’ve said and we’re going to escalate to make sure that we’re heard.”

Cremona said he could not recall anyone previously threatening to take a matter to the minister.

The royal commissioner, Ray Finkelstein, asked Cremona if Crown wanted VCGLR to retract its letter.

Cremona said he got that impression but stood by the VCGLR’s position.

Finkelstein asked if Crown was “threatening you for pushing it”.

“Correct,” Cremona said.

Preston no longer works at Crown. The Victorian gaming minister Marlene Kairouz, who has been contacted for comment, resigned from the ministry in June last year after Nine newspapers accused her of offering the use of one of her staff for branch stacking. She has always denied any wrongdoing.

The dispute with Crown revolved around interpretation of the recommendation. Crown said it had met the recommendation by introducing new internal control statements, but Cremona and his team felt they were inadequate because they were too narrowly drafted and did not take account of the VCGLR’s desire to specifically target junket players.

Eventually, the VCGLR decided to accept Crown had met the requirements of the recommendation but decided to do its own work to strengthen the internal control statements.

Asked by Finanzio why he didn’t “just stick to your guns” and make Crown redo the work, Cremona said he had “no confidence” in the company.

“Undue delay was not appropriate in this space and I thought there would be undue delay if we went to Crown and sought a further review," 彼は言った.

今年の4月に, the VCGLR fined Crown $1m for having inadequate controls over junkets.

The Victorian royal commission was called in response to a New South Wales inquiry that in February found that the operators of junkets who brought high-rollers to the Melbourne and Perth casinos were linked to organised crime and that Crown facilitated money laundering.

A similar royal commission is also under way in Western Australia.

The Victorian hearings continue on Thursday.