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Landmark Sydney casino project hit by laundering probe

·2-min read
Workers clean glass panels of the under construction Crown Sydney casino building in Sydney on November 20, 2020.

The operator of a newly built multi-billion-dollar casino that dominates Sydney's skyline was declared unsuitable to hold a gambling license Tuesday, following allegations of money laundering and links to organised crime.

A public inquiry recommended Crown Resorts -- long run by media scion James Packer -- should be denied a license to run the casino at the gleaming 75-storey tower on Sydney's waterfront over its failure to tackle the accusations.

The New South Wales Liquor and Gaming Authority had commissioned the probe into Crown's operations more than a year ago, after media reports that existing Crown casinos in Australia were used to launder profits from human trafficking, drugs, child sexual exploitation and terrorism.

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin reported Crown was "not suitable" for a license and had been "facilitating money laundering" and doing business with groups linked to triads and other organised crime organisations.

She pilloried the company for having "poor corporate governance, deficient risk management... and a poor corporate culture" and recommended a slew of reforms before the Sydney project could open to punters.

The report noted it took 14 months for Crown to address media reports of money laundering, and some in-company investigations "only commenced in earnest" weeks before the casino was due to open last year.

At the time, a company lawyer told the inquest late that illicit funds were "probably" laundered through two high roller accounts at the company's operations in Perth and Melbourne.

Crown insists it has since fixed shortcomings and in a brief statement on Tuesday said it was "currently considering the Inquiry Report".

Trade in shares of Crown -- which has a market capitalisation of more than US$5 billion -- were halted on the Australian Securities Exchange ahead of the release of the report.

The findings and recommendations will now be considered for formal adoption by regulators.

arb/al/qan