Casino giant Crown Resorts is not fit to run its $2.2 billion Sydney casino because it facilitated money laundering and has other “deep” problems, a highly anticipated report has found.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin has recommended a number of dramatic changes that Crown would have to make before it could run the casino.
In Ms Bergin’s report to the NSW gaming authority, published on Tuesday afternoon, she finds that Crown subsidiaries were used to launder money and that the company’s conduct facilitated money laundering for at least five years.
Billionaire James Packer was able to manoeuvre the company’s operations from afar, despite no longer being on the board, Ms Bergin says.
Though well-intentioned, his actions had “rather disastrous consequences” for the company.
Ms Bergin has left it to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to decide exactly what changes Crown needs to make before gaming could begin at the Barangaroo casino.
But she makes a swag of recommendations, including a forensic probe to make sure all money-laundering in Crown accounts has been uncovered.
While chief executive Ken Barton, former AFL chief Andrew Demetriou and Michael Johnston remain on the board the regulator should have “very serious doubts” that Crown could be suitable to run the casino, Ms Bergin says.
Crown should have to disclose any agreement to share confidential information with Mr Packer as well, she says.
Shares in Crown Resorts earlier entered a trading halt as the casino giant braced for the report, which runs to more than 600 pages.
The report’s publication is the culmination of an extraordinary probe that has laid bare the governance problems at one of the country’s most high-profile companies.
The authority commissioned Ms Bergin to make findings and recommendations on Crown’s suitability to hold a casino licence.
Ms Bergin also says a new Independent Casino Commission should be set up with the powers of a royal commission to address the risks in casinos and gambling.
During the inquiry Crown admitted it was more likely than not that money had been laundered through its bank accounts.
The company was accused by lawyers in the inquiry, and earlier in media reports, of turning a blind eye to money laundering.
Evidence was also aired of the company’s links with organised crime figures and a high-risk, profit-driven culture.
The inquiry shone a spotlight on billionaire James Packer, a figure who has long been subject to fascination, scrutiny and gossip.
While giving evidence, Mr Packer revealed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, an illness that saw him step down from Crown’s board twice.
The troubled heir owned up to “shameful” and “disgraceful” conduct, which he blamed on his poor mental health.
Counsel assisting the inquiry argued that Ms Bergin should find that neither Crown nor Mr Packer were suitable to be close associates of the casino.
Crown appointed a new director, Nigel Morrison, to the board last month. The company’s media release described the appointment as “part of a process of board renewal”.
-more to come