Alleged ties to mob figures, alleged ties to international war criminals and alleged money laundering. The hits just keep on coming for Australia-based Crown Resorts as it tries to justify to regulators why it should keep its casino license and its billion-dollar Crown Sydney casino. New South Wales (NSW) has been looking into the company’s suitability following a string of bad publicity, and the revelation over this past weekend that a high-ranking executive with the gambling operator once told a subordinate to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to a known drug trafficker is not going to help Crown win any friends or support among regulators.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Veng Anh, the VP of international operations of Crown Resorts, told an employee to send AU$500,000 (about $331,000) to Nan Hu a little less than three years ago. Hu is the owner of a nightclub in Australia, the now-shuttered Heaven Club, and also a convicted drug dealer. The money, according to the media outlet, ultimately went to a Melbourne-based Australian-Chinese organized crime syndicate that dealt in heroin sales and distribution.
It’s believed that Anh knew Hu because many Crown VIPs frequented the club; however, he most likely didn’t know of Hu’s past. Even with that being the case, he broke protocol, and financial regulations, in keeping the transfer under wraps. According to Australian laws, any transaction of more than AU$10,000 has to be reported to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) within three days – Crown waited a year and, even then, only acknowledged the transfer because gaming authorities in West Australia had begun to question the transaction.
Hu was convicted for selling and distributing cocaine in 2015, as well as for money laundering. At the time of the financial transaction, Hu was not even a Crown high roller or an agent, which raises multiple red flags with regulators. Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the money has been linked to Tom Zhou, also known as Mr. Chinatown, a Crown VIP identified last year as being on Interpol’s wanted list. Zhou and Anh had worked together to attract Chinese deep-pocketed gamblers to Crown.
Hu took the money and turned it over to a company known to be controlled by Timothy Ma. Ma has been connected to mobs in Australia and spent time behind bars in the early part of the century for trafficking in heroin. He is also reported to have ties to Italian mafia groups.
According to Todd Harland, AUSTRAC’s former director of intelligence, is quoted as saying, “Taking cash and putting it through a casino and hopefully turning that into some level of winnings, or at least the ability to make it look like it was winnings – that’s money laundering 101.” As the list of complaints against Crown continues to grow, and the apparent ease with which high-ranking executives willingly shirked their responsibilities and ignored laws, regulators may ultimately determine that it’s time for drastic measures to be taken at the company.