During his third and final day of answering questions related to the New South Wales (NSW) Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry into Crown’s suitability for a casino license, James Packer admitted he knew about the links between junkets at Crown Resorts and organized crime.
James Packer told the inquiry that he has long been on clear notice about the links between gambling junket operators and organized crime but he did nothing personally as executive chairman of the company by that time to set risk guidelines for the lucrative high-roller operations.
NSW Inquiry into Crown Deepens
The ILGA is continuing to assess the suitability of Crown Resorts to hold a casino license for its newly built casino resort in Barangaroo, Sydney, holding a particular interest into the alleged connection of the casino operator to junket companies, a business which Packer told the commission continued even after he stepped down in 2015.
Initially Packer refused to admit he was aware of the alleged links but conceded when he was reminded of an episode from the Four Corners TV show broadcasted in 2014 which revealed 6 junket operators, all of which brought high-rollers to Crown, linked to organized crime. Yet, he noted he was aware of the company’s due diligence only at the highest level.
James Packer agreed with the suggestion that part of the board’s responsibilities include to set risk guidelines for the junket operations, but as an executive chairman he never focused on the topic, considering it to be the CEO’s job.
E-mail Updates Regarding High-Roller Business
The inquiry then reminded Packer he was kept in the loop regarding international VIP business and junkets, by receiving e-mail updates from Crown executive Ishan Ratnam, including some from May and July 2017, when Packer had already stepped down from the board.
The company’s executive expressed concerns due to Chinese authorities crackdown on gambling capital leaving the country, high-roller segment was getting more difficult due to money transfers out of China. Ratnam also informed Packer that Crown’s London venue, Aspinalls, was affected due to AML procedures and too many third-party bank payments from sources that do not have proof of wealth.
James Packer Met with Alvin Chau
Despite claiming his interaction with junket companies was rare, Packer met in 2015 with Alvin Chau, the head of the biggest Chinese junket operator, Suncity, which was also among the list of 6 involved with organized crime as revealed in the 2014 TV show. Suncity also operated its high-roller room at Crown Melbourne.
James Packer said he met with Chau in Macao while meeting with another junket operator, Song Zezhai, as he wanted to thank the latter for their mutual business. While Chau was reported in August 2019 to have been banned from Australia due to the investigation into Suncity, Chau himself stated he was no subject of investigation from the Australian authorities.
Regarding his participation into setting Crown’s VIP strategy from 2012 to 2015, James Packer responded his contribution was marginal. While he agreed that serious changes need to be implemented, he retorted he would not be going back to the board again.