Crown’s ex-chair Rankin faces ASIC referral over China arrests, Packer threat

Crown Resorts’ former chairman Robert Rankin could be referred to the corporate watchdog over his failure to protect the casino giant’s staff in China, and his decision not to tell his co-directors that James Packer threatened a Melbourne businessman over a soured takeover deal.

Counsel assisting the NSW probity inquiry into Crown, Scott Aspinall, made the bombshell suggestion on Wednesday that the inquiry may send evidence it has uncovered about Mr Rankin to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to investigate a possible breach of directors’ duties.

James Packer, left, with former Crown Resorts chairman Rob Rankin pictured in 2015.
James Packer, left, with former Crown Resorts chairman Rob Rankin pictured in 2015.Credit:Pat Scala

Mr Rankin was Crown’s chairman from 2015 to 2017 – which included the period in which 19 Crown employees were arrested and jailed in China for gambling crimes – and at other times ran major shareholder James Packer’s private company Consolidated Press Holdings.

However, Mr Aspinall revealed on Wednesday that Mr Rankin had refused to give evidence to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry, which has the same powers as a royal commission and is considering whether Crown should keep the licence for its new Sydney casino.


Mr Aspinall said in the absence of any explanation from Mr Rankin about his actions, Commissioner Patricia Bergin was open to find that he failed to notify his co-directors about his concerns – revealed in an email to executives – that Crown should be on “high alert” to the risk of staff being arrested in China, and had failed to follow up on that email to ensure Crown was taking steps to protect staff.

Mr Rankin had also failed to notify his colleagues on the board of the serious threat Mr Packer made in November 2015 to Melbourne businessman Ben Gray after a deal to privatise Crown soured, Mr Aspinall said.

“In those circumstances you may determine to recommend to the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority that it consider referring Mr Rankin to ASIC for investigation for possible breaches of section 180 of the Corporations Act,” Mr Aspinall said, referring to laws covering company directors’ duties.

Mr Aspinall said a referral would be on the basis that “Mr Rankin, as the chairman of a public company, failed in his obligations of due care and diligence to alert the full board of the need to elevate its concerns for its staff in China to a significant risk and to act accordingly to protect them from arrest by the Chinese authorities”.

“Secondly, Mr Rankin…failed in his obligations of due care and diligence to advise the full board of the serious threat that had been made by one of its co-directors, Mr Packer”.

Mr Aspinall told the inquiry that Mr Rankin was in England and had refused to provide written evidence and contended that the inquiry did not have the power to serve him with a legal notice.

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