19 September 2016
by Misa Han
Nick Xenophon seeks crackdown after $850m laundering spree
Senator Nick Xenophon is pushing for a crackdown on money laundering in gambling venues after a Chinese-Australian businessman allegedly washed $850 million through Melbourne's Crown Casino.
Senator Nick Xenophon said while this case involved a large sum of money there were other instances of money laundering that flew under the regulator's radar because they involved smaller amounts.
He highlighted the need for anti-money laundering reform, including by lowering the reporting threshold to $1000 from the current $10,000 and monitoring poker machines for large turnovers, not just winnings.
"Around Australia today money laundering is taking place using pokie machines. If you've just done a crystal meth deal, you could launder proceeds of that through the pokies, because the reporting requirements are so anaemic," he said.
"It's about the casinos and pokies being used to provide a high-speed washing and drying service."
'Astronomical' gambling amount
According to the Australian Federal Police, Chinese-Australian citizen Dai Bai Shun Jin had a total buy-in and cash-out of more than $850 million between 2005 and 2013 at Melbourne's Crown Casino.
The AFP suspects the large turnover may point to money laundering at Crown Casino, because each time a buy-in and cash-out takes place, the money can be exchanged with other sources of money to permit laundering.
In other words, the cash being used for buy-in each time may be tainted, while the cash obtained on a cash-out creates an apparently legitimate source for money.
"Jin's gambling appeared to be astronomical," the police said in its submission to the Victorian Supreme court.
The details of the suspected money laundering activity came to light after Mr Jin's wife, Hongjie Ma, lost a bid against the US tax office to stop her from selling a $US1.7 million Californian investment property that is suspected of being purchased with proceeds of crime.
'Strong reputation for co-operation'
According to the police, the large amount of money gambled away at Crown Casino was at odds with his known income sources. Mr Jin claimed he earned a base salary of $US300,000 in China plus $US200,000 cash bonuses every six months and shares valued at $US100,000 every year.
However, no evidence was provided to the court to prove his income and Mr Jin has never filed an Australian tax return.
A Crown spokeswoman on Sunday declined to comment on individual activity because of the legal proceedings involved. But she said Crown has an approved anti-money laundering compliance program and reports significant cash transactions, international fund transfers and suspicious matters to anti-money laundering agency AUSTRAC.
"Crown's compliance with this compliance program and anti-money laundering legislation is audited regularly by AUSTRAC and no compliance issues of any significance have been found," she said.
"Crown has a strong reputation for co-operation with law enforcement agencies and works closely with Australian state and federal law enforcement to assist them with their intelligence gathering and operations, which may include giving evidence in court proceedings."
The news comes after AUSTRAC raised allegations that Tabcorp accounts were used to filter fraudulent credit card funds for organised crime figures.
Over the eight years, Mr Jin admitted to moving millions of dollars in and out of casinos, for example winning $17 million at Crown Casino and losing $US6 million at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas. On other occasions Mr Jin transferred $SNG6.3 million to Crown Casino for gambling and borrowed $800,000 from his wife for gambling.
Mr Jin also used multiple identity documents, including six Australian passports.
According to the AFP, the large turnover raises the suspicion Mr Jin used funds supplied by others to gamble and used the multiple passports to mask who is controlling the funds he gambles with.
The money laundering allegations throw up fresh concerns for James Packer's Crown Resorts which is in the process of building a $2 billion VIP-only casino in Barangaroo.
In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry into financial related crime, AUSTRAC previously noted casino VIP rooms that offer exclusive access to high-stake gambling tables is vulnerable to abuse. "It is common for players to gamble with large volumes of cash, the source and ultimate ownership of which may not be readily discernible," the agency said.
The Barangaroo development is also facing a legal challenge from Miller Point residents who are seeking to stop the construction of the casino.