Australia wants Thai man suspected of using Crown to launder money

Close view of the modern grand entrance to the Crown Melbourne (Hotel, Entertainment and Casino Complex) building
Close view of the modern grand entrance to the Crown Melbourne (Hotel, Entertainment and Casino Complex) building

Chung Chak “John” Lee laundered millions of dollars through Crown Resorts casinos in Australia. That’s the allegation against him as Australian authorities try to get him extradited from Thailand. Apparently, as has already been demonstrated on several occasions, Crown Resorts made it easy for individuals to pass huge bags of money through its operations without many questions asked, and Lee may have been one of those who took advantage of the casino operator’s lax policies.

Lee was arrested in Thailand this past December, accused of being an international drug lord and a part of The Company, an international crime syndicate. The organization has been on the radar by law enforcement around the world, as well as the United Nations, for managing around 70% of the methamphetamines that entered Australia. However, Lee wasn’t just into drugs and led activity in both Hong Kong and Bangkok that catered to high-rolling gamblers. He didn’t just offer them a connection to the tables, though. He reportedly had joined forces with Crown to drive business and, according to investigators, laundered millions of dollars through Crown’s casino in Melbourne in 2012.

This isn’t the first time that Lee’s name has been linked to Crown. The Company was featured in news pieces on several occasions last year and the year before, all showing how easy it was to use Crown’s operations to launder funds. Those reports, and Lee’s illicit activity, are what led to the investigation into Crown’s history and New South Wales’ Bergin inquiry into the company’s ability to hold a gambling license. That inquiry is expected to wrap up at any time, and Crown is facing the possibility of losing its license and/or being forced to completely revamp its executive ranks to appease regulators.

The 65-year-old Lee is reportedly a high-ranking boss in the 14 K Triad and is said to have spent the past 30-plus years running illegal drug operations across the globe. He is also said to have connections with Broken Tooth, another notorious triad boss reportedly on the run somewhere in Malaysia. Lee apparently has well-placed connections, including in some high-ranking offices in both Taiwan and Thailand. That might create some delays in his extradition to Australia, but it’s not likely to prevent it, unless he figures out a way to conveniently escape before the extradition order can be approved.