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$450 million fine proposed for Crown Resorts

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$450 million fine proposed for Crown Resorts
Australia’s financial crimes watchdog AUSTRAC and casino operator Crown Resorts have together proposed a $450 million fine to be paid by Crown Resorts for historical failings in its anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CTF) risk management and compliance at Crown casinos in Melbourne and Perth.

As part of the penalty agreement, which has been submitted to the Federal Court for consideration, Crown has “admitted that it operated in contravention of the [Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing] Act”.

This includes failing to appropriately assess money laundering and terrorism financing risks and failing to identify and respond to changes in these risks over time, not having appropriate risk-based systems and controls in place to mitigate risks of money laundering and terrorism financing, not having a proper framework to allow oversight by Crown’s board or senior management of AML and CTF programs, not having an appropriate transaction monitoring program in place and not conducting appropriate due diligence on customers who were at higher risk of money laundering.

In response to the filing of the proposed penalty, Crown Resorts released a statement in which its CEO Ciarán Carruthers offered an apology for Crown’s previous actions in Melbourne and Perth.

“First and foremost, I want to reiterate that these historical failings were unacceptable and on behalf of Crown Resorts, our new owners and leadership, I apologise for the failings of the past,” said Carruthers.

“Today marks a significant step in the process and we are pleased to have reached this agreement with AUSTRAC, noting that it is still subject to consideration and approval by the Federal Court and we await that decision.

“The company that committed these unacceptable, historic breaches is far removed from the company that exists today. The Crown of today is committed to harm minimisation and becoming the world leader in the delivery of safe gambling and entertainment.

“To achieve this, we are focused on Future Crown, our multi-year transformation program, which is delivering whole-of-company reform and building a Crown that exceeds the expectations of our stakeholders and community.

“We take seriously the responsibility we have to the community, to law enforcement, to our industry and stakeholders to ensure that we continue to comply with our AML/CTF obligations.

“There is no place for money laundering or terrorism financing at Crown or anywhere within our communities, and we will continue to invest in developing a sophisticated and robust framework, supported by the right capabilities to combat this illegal behaviour.

“We are committed to implementing these reforms to make Crown a better business and lift the standards for the entire industry,” he said.

Crown says it has taken actions taken since October 2020 to improve its AML and CTF procedures and practices, include investing $40 million to boost its financial crime compliance, with more “significant” investments in future, adding around 170 to its financial crime and compliance team and adopting a new AML/CTF program. It has also provided financial crime training to staff and Crown’s board, improved financial crime reporting to the board, including ”applying a stricter and more conservative risk appetite” to both customers and transactions, improved controls to prevent and detect money laundering through Crown’s bank accounts and reduced how much cash can be deposited at Crown’s casinos.

AUSTRAC’s CEO Nicole Rose said Crown’s non-compliance had gone on for years.

“Crown’s contraventions of the AML/CTF Act meant that a range of obviously high-risk practices, behaviours and customer relationships were allowed to continue unchecked for many years.

“Crown has sought to respond to the failures identified in these proceedings by enhancing its approach to ML/TF risk management and investing in its financial crime compliance. We continue to work closely with Crown to ensure that their AML/CTF program and systems are compliant and fit for purpose into the future,” said Rose.

While Crown and AUSTRAC have agreed on what they believe is an appropriate fine, the Federal Court will have the ultimate say on any further fine imposed on the casino operator. Crown Melbourne has already been fined $200 million by Victorian regulators.

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