A whole lot of tens of millions believed laundered at Crown On line casino Perth by way of $2 shell firm

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International criminal organisations are believed to have been using a $2 shell company to launder money at Crown Perth from at least 2014.

Key points:

  • A damning report found Crown “enabled or facilitated” laundering
  • Money flowed from shell company Riverview Investments to Crown Perth
  • Crown’s Perth casino licence is now facing intense scrutiny

As the bombshell report of the NSW inquiry into casino operator Crown has outlined, the company called Riverview Investments Pty Ltd was the conduit for hundreds of millions of dollars to Perth’s monopoly casino.

WA’s casino watchdog was made aware of this account, but despite media allegations of money laundering and the high-profile investigation into how Crown does business in recent years, appeared to take little interest.

Commissioner Patricia Bergin said in her report that Riverview and a similar company called Southbank, which channelled money to Crown Melbourne, were “infiltrated and exploited by criminal elements, probably including international criminal organisations” since at least 2014.

The report said that through these accounts, “hundreds of millions of dollars were deposited and swept into the accounts of Crown’s casinos”.

Commissioner Bergin found Riverview and Southbank had been infiltrated and exploited by criminal elements.(Supplied: Paddy Bergin SC)

“There can be no doubt that the processes adopted by Crown outlined above enabled or facilitated money laundering through the Southbank and Riverbank accounts,” the report said.

ASIC records show Riverbank Investments Pty Ltd is a $2 company owned by Crown Resorts Limited, with Crown Resorts chief executive Ken Barton its sole director and company secretary Mary Manos its secretary.

Crown patrons would deposit money into the account, which would be transferred to Crown Perth to be credited to the patron’s deposit account at the casino.

Crown Perth has the state’s only poker machines.(Flickr: Raging Wire)

Many of these deposits were under $10,000, which meant they did not have to be reported to AUSTRAC, which monitors financial transactions.

Red flags were first raised by the ANZ six months after Riverbank opened an account with the bank.

It raised its concerns with Crown in January 2014 about suspicious deposits of less than $10,000 made by the same person at different Perth branches.

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Despite the bank, and later AUSTRAC, bringing up its concerns with senior Crown executives, the Crown board was never informed.

“No action was taken to close down the operations of Southbank or Riverbank, or implement additional controls to prevent the accounts being exploited for the purposes of money laundering,” the report said.

Watchdog aware of Riverview account

This continued over many years, until media reports about the two private companies being used to deposit the proceeds of crime were first aired in 2019, sparking the inquiry commissioned by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

The report also said that WA’s casino watchdog, the Gaming and Wagering Commission, was aware of the account.

The top floors of one of Crown Perth's hotel towers set against a slightly cloudy blue sky . There are calls for Crown Resorts to be stripped of its licence to operate Crown Casino Perth.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

“The purpose of Riverbank was also to afford its international patrons privacy,” it said.

“Those patrons made deposits to Crown Perth through the Riverbank account.

“It is apparent that it was not necessary to obtain the WA regulator’s approval for the use of this account, although the bank account details were provided to the regulator.”

Under law, one of the key duties of the Gaming and Wagering Commission is to “to enforce, and to prosecute persons contravening, the laws relating to gambling”.

It also has the power to ask the Police Commissioner to investigate anything at the casino.

In its latest annual report, the Commission said it conducted 4,980 audits, inspections, assessments and investigations at the casino during 2019-20.

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It is not clear whether any of these involved the Riverbank account.

“The Gaming and Wagering Commission will consider the report and its findings and recommendations at its meeting on 23 February 2021,” it said in a statement.

“The commission will not make any public comment on the content of the report at this time.”

States have hands ‘in the till’

Professor Linda Hancock from Deakin University, who has been investigating Crown and gambling regulation for more than two decades, said casinos needed to be overseen by a national body because state-based regulators had failed.

“So far the state regulators call themselves independent, but you can hardly come to the conclusion after this inquiry that they are independent, because if they were they’re also incredibly incompetent,” she said.

Professor Hancock said the states were too dependent on gambling companies for revenue.

“You can’t trust the states to do it because their hands are in the till,” she said.

“They get a certain percentage of turnover and it’s more or less like the mining companies with royalties, but it’s mining vulnerable people.”

As Perth’s only casino, a big employer and key tourist destination, Crown Perth is valuable to the WA Government.

In the last financial year it paid $40 million in casino tax.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 42 seconds2m 42sPlay Video. Duration: 2 minutes 42 seconds The WA Premier says the thousands of people Crown employs in Perth should be taken into account.

As an employer of more than 5,000 people though its bars, restaurants and hotels at the Crown Perth complex in Burswood, it would also pay substantial amounts of payroll tax.

Crown Resorts has also been a regular donor to all sides of politics.

Australian Electoral Commission records show it donated about $185,000 in 2019-20, with just over $88,000 going to WA political parties.