Australian casino operator Crown Resorts’ flagship Melbourne property was the scene of an aborted terror attack this week, or at least what initially appeared to be one.
On Tuesday, police rushed to Crown Melbourne after receiving calls about a backpack-wearing man who was said to be acting ‘erratically.’ Local media reported that the “agitated, aggressive” man claimed to be a terrorist and that casino security noticed “green plasticine material” in his backpack, sparking fears of an explosive device.
The situation was deemed serious enough that Crown staff received text messages ordering them to clear the building, leading to a mild panic as customers fled towards the exits and out onto the street.
Victorian police, the bomb squad and other emergency responders descended on the casino, taking the man into custody without incident, although he did threaten to come back and kill the casino manager who initially ordered his expulsion.
With crowds assembled on the street, police sent in a robotic vehicle to examine the backpack, which was ultimately found not to contain any explosive material. (The green material turned out to be tobacco.)
On Wednesday, 55-year-old Malaysian national Nadim Ismail was charged with uttering death threats, making false statements and making a false report to police. Ismail’s visa was cancelled, meaning that after a short stint in immigration detention he’ll once again be Malaysia’s problem.
Magistrate Simon Zebrowski said Ismail wasn’t a terrorist, just some “bloke who’s come here, who’s had a few drinks and made some … highly inflammatory and stupid comments.” Zebrowski praised casino staff and emergency responders for acting appropriately given the perceived threat, even if the ‘terrorist’ turned out to be just a guy who “carries on like a pork chop.”
Last year saw two major incidents involving armed attackers on casino property, each of them resulting in dozens of deaths. This year has already seen casinos around the globe stage mock terror drills to gauge the effectiveness of emergency response teams.