Blackstone-backed casino operator Crown Resorts and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) have agreed to a fine of AUD 450 million ($294 million) for breaking anti-money laundering laws at its Melbourne and Perth casinos. If the federal court agrees to the fine at hearings scheduled for July 10 and 11, it would be the third-largest for an Australian company.
In reaching the agreement with the government financial intelligence agency, Crown admitted that it operated in contravention of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act. Additionally, as part of the settlement, Crown has admitted that it failed to assess the money laundering and terrorism financing risks facing its casinos and did not have appropriate risk-based systems in place to mitigate said risks.
Furthermore, the company also admitted that it “did not have a transaction monitoring program that was appropriate to the nature, size, and complexity of their business” and “did not conduct appropriate ongoing customer due diligence on a range of specific customers who presented higher money laundering risks.”
“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with AUSTRAC,” said Crown Resorts CEO Ciarán Carruthers, who started in the role in September, as reported by ABC News. “The company that committed these unacceptable, historic breaches is far removed from the company that exists today.”
Ciarán Carruthers, Crown Resorts CEO
The company, dominated by billionaire founder James Packer before he agreed to sell it to Blackstone last year, has been the subject of royal commissions in Victoria and Western Australia and a judge-led inquiry in New South Wales. The Bergin inquiry found Crown facilitated money laundering and partnered with operators that had links to organized crime. Additionally, the casino was also found unsuitable to hold a gaming license in all three states.
“Crown’s contraventions of the AML/CTF Act meant that a range of obviously high-risk practices, behaviors, and customer relationships was allowed to continue unchecked for many years,” said Nicole Rose, AUSTRAC CEO, in a statement.
“Crown has sought to respond to the failures identified in these proceedings by enhancing its approach to ML/TF risk management and investing in its financial crime compliance,” Rose added.
Nicole Rose, AUSTRAC CEO
If approved, the fine would take Crown’s total penalties to AUD 680 million ($444.9 million) since it was flooded by accusations of ignoring organized crime and employee safety in hearings since 2020. It would be the third-largest fine in Australian corporate history, behind only Westpac Banking Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
In June last year, global private equity group Blackstone completed the acquisition of Crown Resorts for AUD $8.9 billion ($6.2 billion). Under the takeover terms, Blackstone was allowed to exit the deal if the penalty was greater than AUD 750 million ($490.2 million).
In November, Crown was fined AUD 120 million ($77.7 million) by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) over breaches of its responsible service obligations. Crown was fined an additional AUD 30 million ($19.6 million) by the Victorian gambling watchdog in April for allowing punters to cash bank cheques made out to themselves, exacerbating gambling harm and likely aiding “criminal infiltration by money launderers.”