In a remote hearing that featured video testimony and spanned the day Friday from about 06:30 until 15:30, Australian billionaire James Packer told commissioners that he did not attend any board meetings of the company that oversaw Crown Perth between 2013 and 2016 – even though he was Chairman of the Board at Burswood Limited during that time.
Packer was available for testimony from an undisclosed location until about 10:00.
The period of time between 2013 and 2016 is of special interest to the Commission as well as the Attorney General of Western Australia since it coincides with the alleged laundering of hundreds of millions of dollars through two companies; Riverbank Investments and Southbank, into accounts of Crown‘s casinos.
The hearing follows an inquiry from Commissioner Patricia Bergin earlier this year that states the two investment companies were “infiltrated and exploited by criminal elements, probably including international criminal organisations” beginning as early as 2014.
Packer is the former director at Crown Resorts, having resigned in 2018. He is still the company’s majority shareholder and also chaired the Crown subsidiary, Burswood which oversaw the Perth casino’s operations from 2004 until 2016.
Packer says he ‘Should Have Resigned’
After admitting to Commissioners that Burswood “suffered” without an engaged chairman for three years, Packer told them: “There is no doubt I should have attended or resigned… I did neither”.
Further questioning addressed a time in 2014 that ANZ shut down the accounts of Riverbank Investments due to suspicions of money laundering.
After multiple objections from Packer’s counsel, Commissioner Patricia Cahill eventually posed a question about “keeping an eye on” Burswood during that time, to which Packer replied: “Well, I was keeping an eye on Burswood Limited, either — I — I, accept — I accept that I should have resigned or attend; I accept that completely. I do not accept that I did not stay on top of what was happening at Burswood Limited.”
Packer also stated that he didn’t believe anyone on the Burswood board had any financial crime risk or anti-money laundering experience, but that he also didn’t believe that money laundering had occurred, stating: “Looking back there are many oversights, things that should have been done differently. I did not believe at that point in time that Crown Perth was engaged in money laundering.”
Crown has been under increasing scrutiny with a Victorian inquiry suggesting that Crown had been involved in “illegal, dishonest, unethical and exploitative” activities or behavior.
According to various media reports, the WA Commission is expected to deliver a final report on the matter in early 2022.
Machines Spin Faster in Melbourne
Another item of interest that emerged in the video interview with Packer making a rare public appearance from an undisclosed location follows:
COMMISSIONER JENKINS: What do you understand as the difference between
the electronic gaming machines at each of the properties that forms the basis for that
view you expressed?
MR PACKER: I think the wheels spin faster in Melbourne, and that may be the
COMMISSIONER JENKINS: Thank you for that.
MR PACKER: I was just going to say, which means that a machine in Melbourne
may generate more revenue per day than a machine in Perth, even if they are both
Perth Casino Royal Commission Hearing Day 51, Australian Government, October 29, 2021
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