Long after interviewing former Crown Resorts staffer-turned-whistleblower Jenny Jiang about the casino giant’s secretive internal operations, a phrase she had uttered after quietly crying on camera was still ringing in my head.
Crown, said Jiang, regarded its China-based staff like a “used napkin you throw in the trash can”.
The Bergin inquiry in NSW on Tuesday made a similar finding, albeit using official terminology, and not only about Crown’s regard for its staff in China, who were told to lure high-rollers to Australia in likely defiance of Chinese law. Commissioner Patricia Bergin, a former Supreme Court judge, also savaged Crown’s disregard for corporate governance and the Australian laws supposed to prevent casinos facilitating money laundering.
Crown’s fusion of corporate greed and arrogance with its disrespect for the law and the welfare of its staff now threatens its operations not only in Sydney but, if Premier Daniel Andrews applies some long-overdue oversight, in Melbourne too.
Crown’s directors once sought to trash the reputation of Jiang (and myself) by falsely implying we had paid her for Jiang’s 2019 interview with 60 Minutes, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, or, that she had demanded large sums of money from Crown – also found to be false – but now it is these directors’ reputations that are soiled.
Jiang was one of a number of people I interviewed in 2019 as part of a lengthy investigation into the way Crown had gone rogue to lure Asia’s biggest gamblers to its casinos. A trove of leaked emails, along with briefings from agencies here and overseas, court filings and business records, told more of the picture. The information revealed how Crown had partnered with multiple organised crime bosses who control high-roller gambling tour businesses. In doing so, it also engaged in inappropriate dealings with politically exposed persons with shady backgrounds, including the cousin of President Xi Jinping.
I also revealed how Crown had facilitated money laundering via two companies, Southbank and Riverbank, and given an alleged organised crime-linked business, SunCity, its own gaming room in Melbourne.
Crown’s reaction to our revelations was to slander Jiang and my reporting in full-page advertisements published in both News Corp newspapers and our own. Behind the scenes, directors like John Alexander and Andrew Demetriou continued this white-anting.
Perhaps they were too used to swatting away media scrutiny, like that applied forensically by former Four Corners reporter Marian Wilkinson or Richard Willingham of the ABC.
Victoria’s then minister for gaming Marlene Kairouz downplayed the scandal. Victoria’s gaming regulator did what it has done for most of its existence: very little.
But the NSW gaming authority called on respected senior judge Patricia Bergin to examine the allegations in a commission of inquiry. One by one, each central allegation we had aired was examined and upheld. Directors such as Alexander and Demetriou were exposed as arrogant and ill-prepared. Bergin even expressed personal outrage at Crown’s treatment of Jiang, extracting an apology from company chair and former Liberal minister Helen Coonan (who is among the few senior Crown figures left with her reputation intact).
While the Bergin inquiry’s finding that Crown is unfit to hold a NSW gaming licence is welcome, it is imperative it doesn’t obscure the other failings exposed by the scandal. Anti-money laundering agency Austrac did too little too late, only launching a significant probe into Crown after our expose. It remains ongoing. The Victorian gaming regulator, which missed so much of what was uncovered by Bergin and the media reporting, has been exposed as ineffective. Much of the conduct Bergin examined happened within Crown’s Melbourne business.
Outside of Bergin and her formidable counsel assisting Adam Bell SC, the only Australian agency that was effectively attacking Crown’s facilitation of organised crime is the secretive Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. Just hours after Crown ran its full-page attack advertisements, the ACIC chief executive Michael Phelan released a blistering public statement that made it clear that Crown and other casinos were indeed facilitating international money laundering. The ACIC has now all but shut down SunCity’s multibillion-dollar operations in Australia.
When Jenny Jiang decided to risk plenty and blow the whistle on Crown in 2019, she explained that she wanted the company held to account for its actions. It has taken almost two years, but that accountability has finally arrived.
Source: Thanks smh.com