By MICHAEL HITCH
As Crown Resort’s newest sky-scraper starts to loom over Barangaroo, so do growing concerns over the casino group’s dodgy dealings.
A joint investigation by 60 Minutes, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, spanning the course of more than a year, has found Crown Resorts to be involved with money-laundering, Chinese crime-bosses, Community Party figures and wombat hunters – to name a few.
However, with so much scandalous information circulating, you may have missed some important parts, so here’s a brief recap:
The Casino Group, formerly controlled by James Packer, allegedly attempted to lure “high-roller” gamblers from China to Australia with hefty involvement from alleged crime boss, international fugitive and subject of an Interpol red notice, Tom Zhou, and a cousin to communist Chinese President Xi Jingping: Ming Chai.
A sternly-worded statement from Crown’s board of directors, released on July 31 by the ASX, criticised the 60 Minutes programme and the Fairfax Press for “unfairly” attempting to tarnish Crown’s reputation.
“The ’60 Minutes’ programme on Sunday night and related articles in the Fairfax Press have unfairly attempted to damage Crown’s reputation.
“As a Board, we are extremely concerned for our staff, shareholders and other stakeholders, as much of this unbalanced and sensationalised reporting is based on unsubstantial allegation, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods.
“Crown operates in one of the most highly regulated industries in Australia and takes responsibility to comply with its obligations very seriously.”
Junket junkies and high rollers
In an article with The Age, Mr Packer also denied the allegations and in a statement through his lawyer, insisted that his role in the company’s operations was “passive” as well as having “no knowledge” of Crown’s conduct in China that led to prosecution of its employees.
Among many accusations, Crown is suspected of promoting gambling to Chinese high-rollers by paying sales staff large bonuses to tempt important gamblers to Crown casinos in Melbourne and Perth – a junket activity illegal under Chinese law.
Despite Crown insisting that activities in China were limited to marketing luxury goods and services, 19 of its Chinese employees were arrested and locked in prison in a government crackdown on the Crown’s operations.
Crown’s former Chinese administration and logistics officer, Jenny Jiang, told The Age of her experience being interrogated, arrested and imprisoned by police when her and 18 other colleagues were caught in the Chinese government crackdown.
“High management kept pushing every sales [employee] to meet more customers, get more business,” she said. “You are taking the risk, doing this job. And you don’t know what’ll happen the next day.”
Ms Jiang also touched upon her time in jail. “That’s a really horrible memory. The saddest thing is you couldn’t reach out to your family. You couldn’t hear your relatives’ voice and you don’t know how much
they worry about you.”
National security agencies are concerned about this movement of Chinese high-rollers in and out of Australia, particularly those with links to the Chinese Communist Party or organised crime syndicates such as Asian criminal gangs or “triads”, which are involved in high-roller junket businesses.
Mr Zhou, a prolific Chinese junket runner, was reportedly given access to luxury hotels and private jets and helped Chinese high-rollers get Australian visas to gamble.
Former Border Forcer commissioner, Roman Quadvleig revealed to 60 Minutes that he was instructed by unknown MP’s to fast-track high-roller visa applications.
One of these high-rollers associated with Mr Zhou includes Ming Chai, a cousin of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mr Chai and Mr Zhou were found aboard a private jet for wealthy gamblers in 2016 on the Gold Coast, after the aircraft was searched by federal agents on suspicions of money laundering.
Mr Chai is one of many of Crown Resorts “VVIP”’s (Very, Very Important Person) who not only have direct connections to the Chinese Communist Party but have also led key Communist Party influence organisations in Sydney and Melbourne.
Influence aside, national authorities are concerned with how these high-rollers are splashing their cash outside of Crown casinos.
Victorian Police confirmed last week they are investigating reports of a Chinese-owned luxury resort in Victoria where wombats are hunted and shot with military-grade weapons for sport.
Roughly 100km north of Melbourne, the Murrindindi property is owned by none other than Mr Zhou. Chinese ads for the property were posted on the Chinese social media platform, ‘WeChat’. Charmingly nick-named “Dude Ranch” by Zhou, the ads promise an “ultimate dream for military fans,” who pay around $1,000 a night for the Juijui Resort.
The ads also state that guests can use “all kinds of hunting weapons, including but not limited to double-barrelled shotguns, small calibre rifles and large calibre sniper rifles.
“Guides with hunting licences will explain how to use the guns and share all necessary knowledge, so even without any hunting experience, you are guaranteed to become the best shooters. Wild rabbits, foxes, wombats, wood ducks, red deers, sambar deers… are all waiting to spend a wonderful holiday with you.”
The Star Entertainment Group were contacted for comment.