Testimony Shows Crown Resorts Ignored Junket Problem

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It is no secret that Crown Resorts has been its own worst enemy in recent years. Continued tied to organized crime through gambling junkets have resulted in the company on the verge of losing all of its casino licenses. A Victorian Royal Commission is currently looking at whether the Crown should retain its license. Some of the testimony is pretty damming.

The latest testimony shows that Crown’s management blocked attempts to strengthen its Financial Crime wing. According to testimony, the company was satisfied with doing things as they have always been done. This is despite objections to activity occurring at the casino.

Crown Management Blocks Attempts to Strengthen Financial Crime Wing

A Victorian Royal Commission is looking into the recent history of Crown Resorts to determine whether the casino is suitable to hold a gambling license. Crown has been heavily involved in junket operations in the past. It has been revealed that many of these junkets were backed by organized crime syndicates. Junkets were often used by triad-controlled drug traffickers and other money launderers.

Nick Stokes started with Crown Resorts in 2019 as the new head of Crown Resort’s Financial Crime wing. He quickly discovered that there were problems with the junket operations and brought those up to Joshua Preston, Crown’s legal head. However, Stokes’ attempts to correct these problems were generally struck down by Preston.

According to Stokes, “He would hear me out and he would listen to my views, but on a number of occasions he was of the view that ‘casinos had always been that way and that a casino’s not a bank, and the same rules didn’t quite apply.”

It’s not like Stokes was a newcomer to financial crimes. Stokes has decades of experience in the banking sector sniffing out and stopping financial crimes. Stokes prepared detailed papers for Preston to pass on to senior management, but this never happened.

Furthermore, attempts to increase Stokes’ staff also failed. When he started with the company, he only had a staff of three. That remained that way for quite a while as his attempts to increase staff was consistently rejected.

Things Changed at Crown Resorts in Late 2020

The good news in Stokes’ testimony to the Royal Commission is that things are now different at Crown. Stokes testified that views surrounding junkets changed around September of 2020. Also, he has been able to increase his staff to around 20.

He testified, “I’ve seen that attitude change quite considerably to the point where the business now is very proactive in taking on those first-line responsibilities … we’re looking to build the team further. So that’s very pleasing for me ’cause it’s been 18 months [since starting at Crown] and I hope to show something for 18 months.”

The interesting part about Stokes’ testimony is that it contradicts Preston’s claims last year that he had no idea that junket operators were tied to organized crime. He testified as much during the NSW Bergin inquiry last year and subsequently left Crown Resorts by the end of the year.

This testimony does not bode well for Crown as it further shows that the company willingly allowed junket operators to continue. Stokes has a history of working with financial crimes and had outlined that there was a problem at the Crown. His testimony shows that not only did Crown know about the problem, but they willingly ignored the issue.

Furthermore, they handcuffed the staffers that could have potentially done something to help reduce or even eliminate the problem. While Preston was not solely culpable in what happened at Crown, his lack of action helped to significantly contribute to the problems the company is experiencing today.