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Friday, November 27, 2020

Crown Resorts: Attack on female employee a ‘blot on the board’

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Established in 2007, The Indian Telegraph is a multi award winning digital media company based in Australia.

Crown Resorts’ attack on a young female employee detained in China is a “very bad blot” on the company, an inquiry has heard.

Crown Resorts’ attack on a young female employee in a full-page advertisement aimed at refuting serious allegations is a “very bad blot” on the casino giant’s directors, an inquiry has heard.

The company ran the ad in July last year following explosive media reports centred on a room at Crown’s Melbourne venue exclusively used by Suncity – Macau’s biggest operator of high-roller “junkets” – with leaked footage showing huge wads of cash being exchanged for gambling chips.

It has been alleged Crown “turned a blind eye” to the massive transactions, which were allegedly linked to organised crime.

In the strongly worded ad, which was also issued to the Australian Securities Exchange, Crown said “much of this unbalanced and sensationalised reporting is based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods”.

It also lashed out at one of 19 staff arrested in China in 2016 for illegally promoting gambling tours on behalf of the casino, Jenny Jiang, who featured in one of the reports on 60 Minutes, suggesting she had been paid to appear.

“Also, the objectivity of the former employee is open to question on the basis that she made an unsuccessful demand for compensation from Crown of over 50 times her final annual salary,” the ad read.

It was revealed during the inquiry she was earning $28,000 annually.

During closing submissions to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry into the allegations, which seeks to determine if Crown should retain the gaming licence for its Barangaroo casino slated to open in December, Commissioner Patricia Bergin was scathing of the comments against Ms Jiang.

“It’s a blot on the board, as I see it. A very bad blot,” Ms Bergin said on Tuesday.

It has been revealed during hearings the arrests were kept secret from the board, with Crown’s counsel Neil Young admitting it was a failing by senior management to not escalate the matter at the time.

“What they did was attack a young woman who had been detained for a period to suggest she wasn’t objective,” Ms Bergin said.

“I mean, once you read it, it’s almost incomprehensible to think that directors would have endorsed that paragraph.

“It’s really quite shocking, Mr Young.”

Crown chair Helen Coonan previously told the inquiry that the paragraph relating to Ms Jiang should never have been included and the general tone of the statement should have been softer.

Another Crown barrister, Perry Herzfeld, argued at the inquiry that the board felt the ad was necessary and appropriate to respond to the allegations “swiftly and firmly”.

While Ms Coonan had conceded vetting processes to identify whether Chinese junket operators were linked to organised crime were not “robust” enough, other executives had felt differently, Mr Herzfeld said.

“What Ms Coonan said was exquisitely appropriate,” Ms Bergin shot back.

“What I’m looking for is true commitment.”

Mr Herzfeld said Crown could hardly show stronger commitment (to adhering to anti-money laundering laws) than what it had announced on Tuesday to the ASX – that it would cease all dealings with overseas junket operators.

“Crown will only recommence dealing with a junket operator if that junket operator is licensed or otherwise approved or sanctioned by all gaming regulators in the states in which Crown operates,” the company said in its statement.

Mr Herzfeld also said the language used in the media reports “may fairly be described as sensationalised”.

“Some of the most serious specific allegations made in the media are unsupportable,” he said.

One of the reports that prompted the ad, published in The Age, alleged a criminal syndicate known as “The Company” used Crown to launder its funds, “with Crown licensing and paying syndicate members to generate turnover in its Melbourne and Perth casinos”.

“So far as there are allegations Crown got into bed with The Company or paid commission to The Company … these allegations are not supported by the evidence available to the inquiry,” Mr Herzfeld said.

The report also cited a “junket representative secretly working for The Company”, Roy Moo, as saying he was hired due to his Crown contacts and because laundering money through the casino was “easier than using a bank”.

Mr Herzfeld said Mr Moo had been approved by the Victorian regulator to be a junket tour operator, but Crown refused to deal with him after he was charged with offences in March 2013.

“Some of the media allegations concern matters of some time ago, and they are of less significance than the matters which occurred more recently,” the barrister said.

Crown said in closing submissions on Monday the board had taken action to rectify the management failures.

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