Billionaire James Packer's casino firm faces probe

Monday 24th February 2020

An inquiry has begun into allegations that Australian casino firm Crown Resorts has links to organised crime.

Crown Resorts is one of the country's biggest gaming groups, and is 37%-owned by Australian tycoon James Packer.

It is defending several claims over the use of junkets (paid-for trips) to encourage gamblers to use its casinos.

The New South Wales gaming authority is probing "the vulnerability of junkets to the infiltration of organised crime" at the hearings in Sydney.

It is also investigating "vulnerabilities of casinos to money laundering both generally and in connection with the use of junkets".

Mr Packer and Crown Resorts have denied the allegations and said they will fully co-operate with the inquiry, which is expected to last two weeks.

Junkets are commonly used by casinos to attract high-spending gamblers.

The public inquiry was prompted by the publication in various media outlets last year of allegations concerning the conduct of Crown Resorts and its alleged associates.

"This included allegations that Crown Resorts casinos were used to launder money, anti-money laundering controls were not rigorously enforced, gambling laws were breached and Crown Resorts or its subsidiaries were associated with junket operators that had links to drug traffickers, money launderers, human traffickers and organised crime groups," hearing documents state.

Mr Packer is the largest shareholder of Crown Resorts, which owns casinos in Australia and London, although he stepped down from the board in 2018. His wealth is valued at $3bn (£2.3bn) according to Forbes.

Crown Resorts did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the BBC.

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