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Crown Had 'mindset' Problem, Inquiry Told
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Teilgenommen: Juni 27, 2021

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Crown's anti-money laundering chief told an independent risk expert the group had a "mindset" and "culture" problem and was "too focussed on wealth", a royal commission has heard. The inquiry into whether Crown remains suitable to keep its licence for its Melbourne operations on Friday saw the group's anti-money laundering chief Nick Stokes grilled about his first impressions upon taking over in December 2019. Mr Stokes, it was revealed, aired concerns about Crown's junket operations and their potential exposure to organised crime and money laundering with Deloitte partner Murray Lawson. Dr Lawson, a risk expert, was engaged by Crown in 2020 during a NSW inquiry that found the James Packer-backed group unsuitable to run its newly built casino in Sydney's Barangaroo. Mr Stokes told Dr Lawson that Crown was "too focussed on wealth and not enough on risk", according to notes of the meeting read out to the inquiry. When the Deloitte partner asked Mr Stokes what was the biggest obstacle to change, he said: "mindset, culture". The Crown employee told the inquiry these notes were not a transcript of his meeting with Dr Lawson. Former Federal Court judge Raymond Finkelstein QC, who is overseeing the royal commission, then asked Mr Stokes if, at that time, he did in fact believe Crown was too focussed on profits rather than the risks of money laundering. "I cannot say with any certainty that I had thought about it in that way," Mr Stokes said. Commissioner Finkelstein then asked: "Does that mean you are reluctant to answer the question?" Mr Stokes denied this. "This is not a conversation that happened 10 years ago," Commissioner Finkelstein responded. "And it was an important conversation - but you don't remember it. Alright." Notes from the meeting with Dr Lawson also had Mr Stokes saying his anti-money laundering team "definitely needs to be strengthened". But on Friday he said Crown's anti-money laundering team now had the "foundation of a robust framework". Junket operators brought customers to the casino from overseas, in exchange for a cut, and netted Crown Melbourne more than $900 million between 2017 and 2019. However, they exposed the gaming giant to money laundering, with one criminally-linked junket group gambling $20.5 billion at the Southbank casino from 2015 to 2018. Crown ceased all junket operations in November 2020, following the NSW inquiry led by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin. The Bergin inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering, partnered with junket operators with links to organised crime groups even after being made aware of these connections, and exposed staff to the risk of detention in China. The Victorian inquiry, set up by the Andrews government, began its public hearings this week. It has been told Crown lied to Victoria's gambling regulator about what it knew of China's foreign casino crackdown after its own staff were arrested overseas. The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation looked into the arrests of 19 Crown staff in China in 2016. All were charged with gambling promotion offences, and remain the subject of an ongoing class action against Crown. The inquiry also heard a Crown representative was "furious" and threatened to call Victoria's gaming minister after the VCGLR probed its scrutiny of junket players. It continues on Monday.  
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