SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian casino billionaire James Packer on Thursday said international tour operators helped Chinese players bypass Chinese capital controls and that his company made misleading public statements by distancing itself from so-called junkets.
The Crown Resorts Ltd CWN.AX The founder and a third owner shared his perception of travel agents taking players, often from China, to casinos during an Australian government investigation. An investigation is underway to determine whether the company should be licensed to operate an Australian $ 2.2 billion ($ 1.6 billion) casino in Sydney’s tallest building.
So far in the investigation, which took place just two months before the planned opening of the 75-story tower, Packer has agreed to sell a stake in Crown to Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd of Hong Kong. MLCO.O contrary to the prohibition to do so.
On his third day of testimony, Packer was asked about Crown’s dealings with junket operators after the company ran full-page advertisements last year attacking media reports that Crown was dealing with crime-related junk. organized.
When asked if he knew that the Chinese government had started restricting offshore money flow in 2013, Packer said yes. Asked if he considered Junket’s operators to be able to help Crown customers transfer money from China, he replied, “Yes, I think so.”
He said he never thought about the possibility of junket operators being involved in money laundering. He said he heard “rumors” about junkets linked to organized crime, but he didn’t know if they were true.
In newspaper ads, Crown described the media reports as “a deceptive campaign,” and said its only challenge was Hong Kong-listed Suncity Group Holdings Ltd. 1383.HK.
The attorney questioning Packer, Naomi Sharp, told the investigation that Crown was using at least four junkets at the time, including one called Suncity that was unrelated to the listed entity of the same name.
“I agree,” Packer replied.
Operator Junket Suncity did not comment on the 2019 media reports. Hong Kong-listed Suncity said it has no business in Australia, industry media previously reported.
Asked if he accepted that some parts of the ad were wrong, Packer replied, “Yes, in hindsight I do.”
Asked if the ad’s claim that Crown had a robust control system for junket operators was wrong, Packer replied, “In hindsight, I agree with you, Ms. Sharp.”
Sharp also asked whether the publication of an open letter with false information reflected badly on Crown’s directors.
“Not at that time, if the administrators had received incorrect information,” Packer said. “With hindsight I accept that it reflects badly.”
The investigation continues.
Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Christopher Cushing