The nation's financial crimes watchdog has launched legal action against Crown Resorts following revelations criminals were laundering money through its Australian casinos.
AUSTRAC on Tuesday hit both Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth with civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court for alleged non-compliance with its anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing laws.
The regulator launched an investigation into Crown following accusations senior management turned a blind eye to money laundering risks within casinos.
AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose said Crown allowed its business to be susceptible to criminal exploitation.
"AUSTRAC's investigation identified poor governance, risk management and failures to have and maintain a compliant AML/CTF program detailing how Crown would identify, mitigate and manage the risk of their products and services being misused for money laundering or terrorism financing," Ms Rose said.
"They also failed to carry out appropriate ongoing customer due diligence including on some very high-risk customers. This led to widespread and serious non-compliance over a number of years."
Media reports in 2019 accused the gaming giant backed by billionaire James Packer of allowing organised crime syndicates in Asia to launder money through two of its accounts.
The alleged money laundering was linked to its high-profile VIP gaming operation which brought high-roller players on junket tours to Australia.
A NSW probe into Crown and whether it was fit to hold a gaming licence for its new $2.2 billion Sydney Barangaroo complex, found evidence of money laundering in the Suncity junket room where cooler bags of money was being funnelled through the cash desk above the legal limit of the casino.
In a statement lodged to the Australian Securities Exchange, Crown Resorts said it was expecting the legal proceeding from the regulator, flagging it had changed its compliance program since the investigation was launched in October 2020.
"Crown recognises the importance of complying with its financial crime obligations and has overhauled its approach to managing financial crime risk," the company said.
"Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth have fully cooperated with AUSTRAC during the course of its investigation."
AUSTRAC found Crown failed to appropriately assess or identify AML/CTF risks within its operations and did not include these programs within its risk mitigation controls.
It also claims senior management had no framework in place to oversee AML/CTF within the organisation. No transaction monitoring program was put in to identify suspicious payments.
Ms Rose in her statement said Crown did not manage its high risk customers and allowed money to flow through its network of international casinos in opaque ways.
"This is an important reminder to all casinos in Australia that they must have a strong anti-money laundering program in place to protect their business and the community from serious and organised crime," she said.
AUSTRAC has also launched an investigation probe into the country's other major gaming company Star Entertainment for alleged money laundering breaches.
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