A quick sift through recent court judgments sheds some light on why Chinese authorities might be concerned about Crown Resorts’ junket operations. Sydney’s Star Casino too has had its brush with money laundering crimes by Chinese nationals.
In one case, it was the purchase of a Lamborghini Aventador coupé by Chinese-Australian businessman Ming Qing Wang that caught the Australian Federal Police’s attention.
The impact of China’s raids on Crown Resorts
Elizabeth Knight comments on the potential impact to Australian businesses after a government crackdown on Crown Resort’s offices in China.
Purchased through a junket account set up through Crown Casino, the Lamborghini raised eyebrows. The AFP took action in the Supreme Court of Victoria to seize the car and obtain orders to examine the man and his associates.
Melbourne-based Wang had struck a deal with a friend from China, Lang Tao Ying, who regularly travelled to punt at Crown Casino’s VIP facilities on junkets. The pair split their gambling winnings.
Ying was a ‘whale’, a big-time gambler, the exact type of punter Crown Resorts’ staff in mainland China had been hunting when they were arrested this week on alleged gambling crimes.
The whale had ploughed millions into the casino over several years and in 2012 had come up trumps with an $11.99 million haul.
Wang took his cut and purchased the luxury car in 2013, but it wasn’t long before the AFP came calling.
The car was seized and examination orders granted against Wang on the suspicion it may have been bought using “proceeds or an instrument of the crimes of money laundering or tax avoidance occurring during gambling activity on casino junket tours”, according to Supreme Court of Victoria Justice Rita Zammit.
A Lamborghini Aventador was the prize purchase of a Melbourne man who gambled with his Chinese friend suspected of money laundering. Photo: Supplied
The investigation is understood to be ongoing and Ying, being based in China, is not expected to be examined.
But Ying is not the biggest of China’s ‘whales’ to swim to these shores.
Melbourne’s Crown Casino has been a hotbed of money laundering by Chinese nationals, according to court judgments. Photo: Shannon Morris
Earlier this year, Fairfax Media revealed that Chinese-Australian Dan Bai Shun Jin was subject to a police probe after he allegedly turned over a staggering $855 million at Crown Casino between 2005 and 2013.
The matter came to light in late September after Mr Jin’s China-based wife, Hongjie Ma, applied to the Supreme Court of Victoria to access a mansion in an affluent Californian suburb the couple owned, which had been confiscated under the proceeds of crime laws.
In throwing out Ms Ma’s application, Justice John Dixon said: “Jin is likely to be involved in large-scale illegal casino based money laundering activity in Australia, the US, Macau and Singapore.”
Describing Mr Jin’s gambling as “astronomical”, Justice Dixon noted he had at least six Australian passports and was employed in China on an annual package of $US600,000 a year.
“Money laundering is suspected in circumstances where a person with access to multiple identities engages in large buy-ins and cash-outs of chips on a regular basis,” Justice Dixon said.
“Such conduct creates a huge turnover figure, but on each occasion of a buy-in and cash-out, that money can actually be exchanged with other sources of money, permitting laundering. The cash being used for buy-in may be tainted, while the cash obtained on a cash-out creates an apparently legitimate source for money,” he added.
The Star investigations
Sydney’s Star Casino too has had its brush with money laundering crimes.
Echo Entertainment’s The Star casino in Sydney has also been embroiled in money laundering investigations involving Chinese nationals.
In 2015, Tiawanese-New Zealander Yi-Hua Jiao received a 16-month prison sentence for her part in a money laundering ring funnelling back and forth between Hong Kong via The Star.
Jiao admitted that the money exchange had been facilitated by her elder brothers in Hong Kong, that her brothers had arranged for her to receive $625,000 from an unknown man at The Star who would identify her by the name “Jacqueline” and through the serial number of a $5 note in her possession, and that her brothers wanted her to send half the money to China, the court found.
Meanwhile in September this year, Vietnamese-Australian Minh Phat Truong had his sentence for six money laundering charges reduced to six years with a non-parole period of four years.
Truong was part of a money laundering and drug ring that involved Chinese nationals in Hong Kong funnelling funds through Crown Casino.
“[Truong] is the cousin of Suky Lieu. Suky Lieu was a Melbourne-based principal of an international drug importation, money laundering and drug trafficking syndicate,” the judgment for Truong’s sentencing appeal says.
“The applicant assisted Lieu by arranging money transfers authorised by Crown Casino,” the judges found.
Casinos operators in crisis mode
Crown’s best clients are often provided with revolving lines of credit with no questions asked, with accounts settled later depending on how much the customer wins or loses. Photo: Bloomberg
These court matters are the kind of cases that chill casino operators in Australia and overseas – and their marketing teams trying to land whales.
New Zealand casino operator SkyCity Entertainment, which runs six venues in Adelaide, Darwin and New Zealand, warned on Friday that its business is likely to be affected by the detention of the Packer 18. Its shares dived 11.9 per cent amid fears a crackdown by Chinese authorities would hurt its ability to attract Chinese VIP gamblers, a key part of its business.
“It is clear that these changes in the immediate future will impact our international business from China,” SkyCity’s CEO John Mortensen said.