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By Nathan Villania, Updated:
Federal Court civil penalty proceedings have been filed against Crown Resorts by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) for alleged non-compliance with the country's anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF) legislation.
According to AUSTRAC, the action is the result of proactive compliance work with the casino and pokie games sector, which resulted in a number of comprehensive enforcement investigations into Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth's compliance with AUSTRAC regulations.
AUSTRAC CEO Nicole Rose stated that Crown failed to satisfy its anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing duties, leaving the company and Australia's financial system susceptible to illicit exploitation.
The civil penalty actions are the result of a protracted investigation by AUSTRAC, which began in October 2020 and looked into alleged non-compliance on the part of the Crown Melbourne Group.
"Ongoing client due diligence, as well as the adoption, maintenance, and compliance with an anti-money laundering/counter-terrorist financing program," Crown had declared at the time of the apparent noncompliance.
In particular, the inquiry focused on Crown Melbourne's treatment of clients who had been recognized as high-risk and politically exposed — an area of worry that was also highlighted by the recent Royal Commission’s casino rev i ew into their Melbourne site and highlighting it as a crucial source of concern.
Crown said in a filing on Tuesday morning that it had anticipated that AUSTRAC would initiate civil penalty proceedings, but that it had already developed a comprehensive remediation plan that it believes will position the company as a leader in the industry in terms of governance, compliance, responsible gaming, and the management of financial crime risk.
A statement from Crown reads: “The plan is underpinned by an uplifted organisational culture. Crown recognises the importance of complying with its financial crime obligations and has overhauled its approach to managing financial crime risk.”
It also follows investigations from the Royal Commission into the operations of Crown Resorts in both Victoria and Western Australia, finding that the parent company engaged in "illegal, dishonest, unethical, and exploitative" conduct.
This comes at an awkward time as Crown Resorts are looking to sell. The Commission has ruled that the firm was unsuitable to run Crown Melbourne, but decided against cancelling the casino's licence right away, instead choosing to appoint a Special Manager who would supervise the company's restoration to appropriateness.