The Australian government has denied a deal it had with Crown Resorts and other large companies to fast track short-stay visa applications for clients involved special treatment, such as reduced vetting.
The denial comes on the back of a series of reports by Nine news outlets accusing Crown of laundering large sums of money through its Melbourne gaming venue – allegations the casino giant has strongly rejected.
Nine on Tuesday claimed Crown was among a number of big companies that had an arrangement with the Department of Home Affairs to fast track the application process for short-stay visas through Australia’s consulates and embassies.
While the department says there were such arrangements, it denied this had led to preferential treatment, such as reduced vetting, for applicants including people from China.
“Our offices in China are well aware of the risks that may be present in their case loads and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly,” a department spokesman told Nine newspapers.
“These arrangements always make it clear that applicants are subject to the full range of applicable checks.”
The short-stay visas arrangement involving Crown’s clients began in 2003 under the Howard coalition government, was continued under the Gillard Labor government in 2011 but ended 2016, Nine newspapers reported.
In a statement on Monday, Crown defended itself against the earlier claims of money laundering following the reports claiming large sums of money had been put through its Melbourne gaming venue.
“Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC,” the statement read.
In federal parliament on Monday, there were calls for an inquiry into Crown.
“It is a very serious topic and deals with the integrity not only of our gaming industry but issues that go to law enforcement and border protection,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told parliament.
“Our government takes allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone is required to abide by the Australian law including casino operators, public official all visitors to our country.”