Calls for Crown casino inquiry after leaked video of bricks of cash in junket room

Ben Doherty
Whistleblower alleges gamblers able to launder millions of dollars through casino with impunity. Video footage showing dozens of “bricks” of $50 and $100 notes – hundreds of thousands of dollars worth – being casually handed over from a shopping bag in a high-rollers’ room at Melbourne’s Crown Casino have sparked renewed calls for a royal commission into alleged criminality at the casino. The footage, shot on Crown’s own security cameras, shows an unknown man handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars in Australian currency inside the Suncity junket room at Crown. He pulls the money, wrapped in elastic bands, from a freezer shopping bag, and waits, and appears to speak with friends and casino staff while it is exchanged for high-value casino chips. Suncity is a Macau-based gambling tour operator that flies in wealthy Chinese gamblers to Australian casinos. It has a dedicated gaming room at Crown. The footage was leaked by three Victorian state gambling inspectors turned whistleblowers and released publicly by the independent member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, who has repeatedly called for a royal commission into the casino. “People probably think that everything that goes on is squeaky clean ... ,” one of the whistleblowers says on the footage, his voice obscured. “But in fact it’s fucked. “You see people coming in with bags of money, cash, it’s a junkets room, it’s specially designed for people that come in from overseas, the Suncity room at Crown.” The Suncity room faced closure by the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation in 2017 over alleged ties to organised crime, but remains open. The whistleblower said high-rollers in the casino were never challenged by casino staff. “Anybody can walk in with any amount of money and launder it … Nobody really cares. “They get to do what they want. They can bring anybody into the casino, they can bring in as much money as they like, nothing is ever said.” The whistleblower said a reduced presence of Victoria police inside the casino meant suspected criminals were able to allegedly launder money with impunity. Wilkie has called for a royal commission into Crown, arguing the footage follows earlier allegations of money laundering, machine tampering, drug running and domestic violence at the casino. Crown has also been accused of breaking immigration laws to illegally bring people into Australia to gamble. “For many years we’ve been told of shocking crimes occurring at Crown and now we have new footage that supports these claims,” Wilkie said. “The inspectors who have provided these videos say countless millions of dollars are regularly laundered inside Crown. Crown can no longer claim this isn’t happening. This leaked version was filmed using Crown’s own security cameras.” Wilkie said Crown’s alleged misconduct could only occur, and continue to occur, if the casino was confident it had political cover and if numerous agencies fail to do their jobs. “This crisis at Crown is multinational, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency. This is a demonstration of catastrophic failure on the part of the major parties, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Victoria police, the Australian federal police, Border Force and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac).” Wilkie attempted to establish a royal commission into Crown in July this year but was voted down by both Labor and the Coalition. The motion put to parliament Tuesday was also defeated in the lower house. The footage shows a man, whose face is obscured, carrying a shopping freezer bag, unloading “bricks” of $50 and $100 notes, bound together with elastic bands. A casino employee is shown to accept the money and it is counted by machine. The cashier makes calculations on a calculator and is shown to give the man a series of high-value casino chips. The man leans casually on the counter and appears to talk to friends and casino staff while the transaction is processed. At points in the footage, the security camera swings around to reveal other transactions occurring and zooms in to focus on money and chips on the counter. “It’s so much money, where would it come from?” the whistleblower said. “And in an Aldi bag; if it was legit, why wasn’t it in the bank?” The whistleblower claims that the same gambler returned to the same room a number of weeks later to deposit even more money. The whistleblower alleges that cash deposited with the casino in sums as large as these is either put into a bank account or exchanged for large-value chips, which are later cashed in: “Therefore the money is cleaned up. “It’s happening every week. There’s been reports put in on it, but it’s still going on.” Wilkie also revealed an interview with a Crown casino limousine driver who alleged high-rollers are flown into Australia on private jets, bypassing customs checks and driven straight to the casino. High-rollers are allegedly able to access illegal drugs, offered prostitutes and, essentially, anything else they ask for. “Whatever gets asked for, the answer is ‘yes’. No questions asked. There is no ‘no’ at Crown. Whatever a VIP asks for, you’re expected to do it. Legal, illegal. It doesn’t matter.” Crown, the driver alleges, is willing to cover up illegal activity because it is good for business. “They don’t worry about crime. They want people to come in, drink too much, take whatever drugs they want and lose their money.” A spokesman for Crown Casino said there was no basis to the allegations, and said it had a strong history of compliance with its legal and regulatory requirements. “Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) program, which has been and continues to be subject to ongoing regulatory supervision by Austrac. “Crown provides a range of information in a proactive manner in accordance with its regulatory obligations, including the reporting of all transactions over $10,000, international funds transfer instructions and the reporting of suspicious transactions of any value. Last year, the sixth review of Crown’s licence recommended that Crown undertake “a robust review (with external assistance)” of relevant controls to ensure anti-money laundering risks were addressed. The casino spokesman said Crown would continue to work with the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in responding to the recommendations from the sixth review. The attorney general Christian Porter said the federal government had referred allegations involving Crown and federal agencies to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. Porter said ACLEI was the most suitable agency for any investigation, with powers similar to those of a royal commission, including the ability to hold hearings and compel evidence. Porter said ACLEI will also make other authorities aware if it uncovers illegal activities unrelated to federal agencies during its investigation. “It must give the evidence to the relevant state or federal police agency, or prosecutorial authority,” he said. Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

Video footage showing dozens of “bricks” of $50 and $100 notes – hundreds of thousands of dollars worth – being casually handed over from a shopping bag in a high-rollers’ room at Melbourne’s Crown Casino have sparked renewed calls for a royal commission into alleged criminality at the casino.

The footage, shot on Crown’s own security cameras, shows an unknown man handing over hundreds of thousands of dollars in Australian currency inside the Suncity junket room at Crown. He pulls the money, wrapped in elastic bands, from a freezer shopping bag, and waits, and appears to speak with friends and casino staff while it is exchanged for high-value casino chips.

Suncity is a Macau-based gambling tour operator that flies in wealthy Chinese gamblers to Australian casinos. It has a dedicated gaming room at Crown.

The footage was leaked by three Victorian state gambling inspectors turned whistleblowers and released publicly by the independent member for Clark, Andrew Wilkie, who has repeatedly called for a royal commission into the casino.

“People probably think that everything that goes on is squeaky clean ... ,” one of the whistleblowers says on the footage, his voice obscured. “But in fact it’s fucked.

“You see people coming in with bags of money, cash, it’s a junkets room, it’s specially designed for people that come in from overseas, the Suncity room at Crown.”

The Suncity room faced closure by the Victorian Commission for Gaming and Liquor Regulation in 2017 over alleged ties to organised crime, but remains open. The whistleblower said high-rollers in the casino were never challenged by casino staff.

“Anybody can walk in with any amount of money and launder it … Nobody really cares.

“They get to do what they want. They can bring anybody into the casino, they can bring in as much money as they like, nothing is ever said.”

The whistleblower said a reduced presence of Victoria police inside the casino meant suspected criminals were able to allegedly launder money with impunity.

Wilkie has called for a royal commission into Crown, arguing the footage follows earlier allegations of money laundering, machine tampering, drug running and domestic violence at the casino. Crown has also been accused of breaking immigration laws to illegally bring people into Australia to gamble.

“For many years we’ve been told of shocking crimes occurring at Crown and now we have new footage that supports these claims,” Wilkie said.

“The inspectors who have provided these videos say countless millions of dollars are regularly laundered inside Crown. Crown can no longer claim this isn’t happening. This leaked version was filmed using Crown’s own security cameras.”

Wilkie said Crown’s alleged misconduct could only occur, and continue to occur, if the casino was confident it had political cover and if numerous agencies fail to do their jobs.

“This crisis at Crown is multinational, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency. This is a demonstration of catastrophic failure on the part of the major parties, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, Victoria police, the Australian federal police, Border Force and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (Austrac).”

Wilkie attempted to establish a royal commission into Crown in July this year but was voted down by both Labor and the Coalition. The motion put to parliament Tuesday was also defeated in the lower house.

The footage shows a man, whose face is obscured, carrying a shopping freezer bag, unloading “bricks” of $50 and $100 notes, bound together with elastic bands. A casino employee is shown to accept the money and it is counted by machine. The cashier makes calculations on a calculator and is shown to give the man a series of high-value casino chips. The man leans casually on the counter and appears to talk to friends and casino staff while the transaction is processed.

At points in the footage, the security camera swings around to reveal other transactions occurring and zooms in to focus on money and chips on the counter.

“It’s so much money, where would it come from?” the whistleblower said. “And in an Aldi bag; if it was legit, why wasn’t it in the bank?”

The whistleblower claims that the same gambler returned to the same room a number of weeks later to deposit even more money.

The whistleblower alleges that cash deposited with the casino in sums as large as these is either put into a bank account or exchanged for large-value chips, which are later cashed in: “Therefore the money is cleaned up.

“It’s happening every week. There’s been reports put in on it, but it’s still going on.”

Wilkie also revealed an interview with a Crown casino limousine driver who alleged high-rollers are flown into Australia on private jets, bypassing customs checks and driven straight to the casino. High-rollers are allegedly able to access illegal drugs, offered prostitutes and, essentially, anything else they ask for.

“Whatever gets asked for, the answer is ‘yes’. No questions asked. There is no ‘no’ at Crown. Whatever a VIP asks for, you’re expected to do it. Legal, illegal. It doesn’t matter.”

Crown, the driver alleges, is willing to cover up illegal activity because it is good for business.

“They don’t worry about crime. They want people to come in, drink too much, take whatever drugs they want and lose their money.”

A spokesman for Crown Casino said there was no basis to the allegations, and said it had a strong history of compliance with its legal and regulatory requirements.

“Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) program, which has been and continues to be subject to ongoing regulatory supervision by Austrac.

“Crown provides a range of information in a proactive manner in accordance with its regulatory obligations, including the reporting of all transactions over $10,000, international funds transfer instructions and the reporting of suspicious transactions of any value.

Last year, the sixth review of Crown’s licence recommended that Crown undertake “a robust review (with external assistance)” of relevant controls to ensure anti-money laundering risks were addressed.

The casino spokesman said Crown would continue to work with the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation in responding to the recommendations from the sixth review.

The attorney general Christian Porter said the federal government had referred allegations involving Crown and federal agencies to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. Porter said ACLEI was the most suitable agency for any investigation, with powers similar to those of a royal commission, including the ability to hold hearings and compel evidence.

Porter said ACLEI will also make other authorities aware if it uncovers illegal activities unrelated to federal agencies during its investigation.

“It must give the evidence to the relevant state or federal police agency, or prosecutorial authority,” he said.

Australian Associated Press contributed to this report