Casinos lose in high risk foreign play


And unlike the AUSTRAC of 2017 – when it conducted a casino junkets campaign with a finding that “casinos are broadly aware of and comply with their Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act (ML/CTF) obligations regarding casino junkets” – the financial crimes watchdog wants it known that the days of rose-coloured glasses are over.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose issued a statement, saying “money laundering and financial crime enables serious criminal activity such as drug trafficking and human trafficking which causes harm to our communities”.

Over the years there have been a number of media exposés on Crown. In 2017 ABC’s Four Corners exposed links with junkets, organised crime and money laundering.

In 2019 a joint venture with The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and 60 Minutes revealed Crown had links to Chinese crime bosses, drug syndicates, money laundering and alleged sex trafficking rings.

It was operating in plain sight but the politicians, state regulators, the corporate regulator and AUSTRAC did nothing.

The NSW casino inquiry into Crown Resorts shows that those regulators sat on their hands and the board shamefully did the same.

The latest report reveals that between April 2018 and March 2019 an estimated 635 suspicious matters reporting (SMR) were submitted to AUSTRAC by 15 entities including casinos, banking and remittance operators worth a total value of $363 million. (Under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act, reporting entities have an obligation to report suspicious matters to AUSTRAC).

Of the 15 entities, two casinos accounted for more than two-thirds of the suspicious matters and almost half of those reported suspected money laundering.

AUSTRAC also identified a small number of transactions where entities could be using money held in casino accounts to make political donations which could be linked to foreign interference.

“The provision of political donations in itself is not illegal, however, the unusual source of the funds, involving potentially covert international money movement, raises concerns for potential foreign interference,” the report warned.

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It then spelt out how serious a risk it was. It said the involvement of foreign politically exposed persons (PEPs) in junket tour operations increased the risks of exploitation “because these individuals are inherently more likely to hold political ideologies, wield political power and have access to government funds”.

If the findings aren’t enough for companies such as Star Casino and Crown to ditch ties to foreign junket operators, then the stench of political interference and donations might do it for them.

The fallout from Westpac, which was found to have facilitated financial transactions of paedophiles, and Commonwealth Bank, which enabled drug traffickers and terrorists, makes it clear there is zero tolerance…



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