The financial crimes regulator is suing the casino operator for numerous breaches of anti-money laundering laws.
Judge Lee Criticizes AUSTRAC for Not Taking the Crown Case Seriously
The Australian Financial Review reported that Justice Michael Lee expressed his surprise that AUSTRAC agreed to Crown’s request to delay the settlement on agreed facts and admissions until May.
Lee expressed concern that the regulator wasn’t serious about pursuing the case and questioned whether it was committed to running the proceedings. Justice Lee made it clear that he wants the matter to be resolved quickly, stating that it’s in the public’s best interest for the proceedings to be determined with alacrity.
AUSTRAC filed its case against Crown Resorts in March 2022, alleging that the company breached anti-money laundering laws numerous times. The regulator claims that Crown failed to assess the risk of 60 VIPs who bet in excess of AUD 70 billion ($48.4 billion) and lost AUD 1.1 billion ($761 million) since March 2016. The allegations state that some of these 60 customers were clients of both Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, accounting for 83 contraventions in total.
The potential fines for the alleged breaches are more than AUD 1 billion ($691.9 million). However, analysts expect the actual fine to be several hundred million dollars.
This case comes after a slew of damaging findings that led to the end of James Packer’s association with the casino and the following deal where Crown was bought out by Blackstone.
AUSTRAC Commits to Ongoing Legal Case Against Crown
According to Michael Hodge, the lawyer representing AUSTRAC, the regulator is fully committed to pursuing the ongoing legal case against Crown. Although the process may be time-consuming, Hodge acknowledged the experience of Crown’s solicitors with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing. As such, he noted that AUSTRAC would not be able to dispute the 12-week defense period requested by Crown’s legal team.
Kane Loxley, representing Crown, stated that his client would likely admit to non-compliance with anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing rules. Nevertheless, there remains a dispute over the interpretation of provisions in Crown’s AML program.
In November, Star Entertainment was also sued by AUSTRAC. John Sheahan, KC, representing the company, also requested more time to consider the charge sheet, although he expressed his belief that such matters often result in “complete agreement between the parties.” The charges are again for violations of law regulations regarding anti-money laundering.
The third similar case, which was filed by AUSTRAC in December, is against SkyCity and also involves breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulations.