Shares in Crown Resorts sank as much as 10 per cent after the Australian casino operator said it is being investigated by the country’s financial crimes regulator for potential breaches of anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing rules.
Crown said Austrac identified concerns during a September 2019 compliance assessment at its Melbourne casino that focused on its management of customers identified “as high risk and politically exposed persons”. “The potential non-compliance includes concerns in relation to ongoing customer due diligence, and adopting, maintaining and complying with an anti-money laundering / counter-terrorism financing program,” the company said. Crown said it would fully co-operate with the investigation. Austrac confirmed it had begun a probe but would not comment further. Shares in Crown closed down 8.2 per cent on Monday as investors digested the latest in a series of regulatory investigations into the group’s conduct and governance.
Crown has casinos in Melbourne and Perth, and is building one in Sydney, slated to open in December. If breaches are proven, it could face millions of dollars in fines and threats to its casino licences, the BBC reports. The company is already facing separate inquiries into its licences and questions over how it brought in high-roller gamblers, largely from China.
Last year, Nine Entertainment newspapers reported allegations that Crown Melbourne had business ties to tour operators with suspected crime links in Asia.
In a statement, Crown said Austrac had raised concerns after reviewing its Melbourne casino's "management of customers identified as high risk and politically exposed persons".
They included "concerns in relation to ongoing customer due diligence" and complying with "an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism financing programme". Crown added it would co-operate with the investigation. The company said the matter had been referred to Austrac’s enforcement team, which has initiated a formal enforcement investigation into the compliance of Crown Melbourne.
The investigation by the federal anti-money laundering authority follows evidence before an inquiry by the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority into allegations of breaches of the Sydney licence. An inquiry into the Sydney casino licence has been investigating Crown Melbourne's high-roller room and other business dealings. Earlier this month, Crown's billionaire former chief executive James Packer was among those who gave testimony.