The inquiry into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold a New South Wales gaming license has taken more twists and turns. The panel learned Crown is more lax with its approach to using junkets and it worked closely with an organised crime target to being Chinese VIPs to its properties.
Former supreme court judge Patricia Bergin is chairing the inquiry. Bergin is also examining allegations of money laundering and links to organised crime in Crown’s casinos.
Allegations of links to organised crime have plagued Crown and other Australian casinos for several years. Australian casinos often use junkets to bring well-heeled gamblers to their properties. These VIPs wager billions of dollars every year, so much so they have their own section in casinos’ financial reports.
The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age last year alleged Crown Resorts was using junkets back by Asia’s most powerful organised crime syndicates. Crown is, of course, part-owned by billionaire James Packer.
Macau Junkets Linked to Organised Crime
Gaming expert Paul Bromberg of Spectrum Asia gave evidence at the inquiry. Bromberg told the panel Crown Resorts Melbourne is lacking when it comes to preventing money laundering. Junkets operating in Singapore and US gaming states such as New Jersey and Las Vegas require licenses. Australian operators do not.
Bromberg told the inquiry significant research revealed Macau’s junkets have substantial links with the triads, ruthless organised crime syndicates. According to Bromberg, junkets arranged narcotics and prostitutes for clients in addition to providing cross-border finance and enforced debts. Enforcing gaming debts is illegal in China.
“For all these reasons, organised crime has been involved in junkets for many years,” Bromberg said.
Suncity Junket under the Spotlight
Bromberg told the inquiry there are reports in the Hong Kong media of organised crime connections of Suncity. The Australian government recently banned Suncity’s CEO, Alvin Chau, from entering the country. Chau “poses tangible criminal and reputational links to the Hong Kong Jockey Club and indeed the racing integrity in Hong Kong” Australian police said.
Police claim Chau is or was a member of the 14K triads, claims he strongly denies.
“Suncity key personalities have demonstrated links to numerous triad societies and organised crime figures,” the police report said.
Hong Kong stock exchange-listed Suncity is the biggest junket operator in Macau. Crown’s representatives pointed this out to the inquiry. This fact brings “very little” comfort, said Bromberg.
Another of Suncity’s executives is an organised crime target. Cheng Ting Kong is linked with an organised crime network that poses a great threat to Australia’s interests.
The Australian Priority Organisation Target List, or APOT, included Kong in 2017. No charges or convictions have ever been brought upon Kong, but he is a target of money laundering investigations.
Suncity became Crown’s main recruitment partner for Chinese high rollers while under Kong’s control. Financial records show Kong spent an incredible $75 million in Australia despite being on a watchlist.
Kong has a passion for horse racing and spent $17.8 million purchasing Eliza Park’s stud operations in Queensland and Victoria. Crown Casino Melbourne hosted the celebration party when Kong launched his stud business in 2013.
Authorities allowed Kong to purchase the upmarket Sun Kitchen restaurant on Albert Park lake only last year. The restaurant serves extravagant dishes, some costing $400, and is one of Melbourne’s most exclusive locations.
How Kong managed to operate in two regulated industries – casinos and horse racing – with his links to organised crime is a mystery.
Regulator Claims Crown New About Suncity Links to Triads
Everyone in the gambling industry knows there are links between junkets and Triads. Anyone with the ability to perform a search on the internet would find hundreds of media report highlighting this fact.
Dozens upon dozens of articles show Suncity’s links to organised crime and the Triads.
Former Northern Territory gaming regulator Alan Pedley doesn’t believe Crown were unaware of these links.
“If Crown had said that they didn’t know that a junket operator was involved in organised crime, I think they’re pulling your leg.”