Crown misled Victorias gaming regulator as it probed the arrests of 19 casino staff in China in 2016, an inquiry has heard.Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) investigator Timothy Bryant said key Crown Melbourne employees interviewed for its investigation into the arrests provided “misleading”, “false” or “not completely fulsome” information.
“At times they lied to me in the interview about what they were aware of and what they weren’t aware of,” Mr Bryant told the royal commission on Tuesday.
Commissioner Ray Finkelstein is examining whether Crown is suitable to hold Melbourne’s only casino licence.
It comes after a damning NSW inquiry found in February the casino giant was unfit to hold a casino licence in Sydney, leaving only non-gaming operations and luxury apartment sales at its new $2bn Barangaroo development.
The Bergin inquiry found Crown Resorts facilitated money laundering and disregarded the welfare of its China-based staff, putting them at risk of detention by pursuing an aggressive sales policy and failing to escalate risks through its corporate risk channels.
Mr Bryant said key Crown employees underplayed to VCGLR investigators warnings they had received about China’s crackdown on the casino industry in the lead up to the staff arrests, which came as a result of illegally luring Chinese high rollers to gamble at their Australian casinos.
He said Crown had misled the regulator in saying the Chinese government crackdown was about corruption, rather than foreign casinos trying to lure Chinese gamblers.
It also misled regulators by telling them an employee detained for questioning in China was to do with “a gambler” and not about the casino’s operations there.
“I thought it was one of the more pivotal incidents,” Mr Bryant said.
Crown had also assured the regulator it was operating in a “low key” manner in China, with staff told not to distribute gambling material in breach of local laws, yet evidence later surfaced showing it had been produced and given to staff in China.
Mr Bryant said he had expected a high level of co-operation from Crown with the investigation, which included formal legal requests for information, yet the supply of documents sought was fragmented and some had redactions.
“Does that mean, for example, providing you with full and frank information about the subject matter of your investigation?” Mr Finkelstein asked.
“Yes, from the outset” Mr Bryant replied.
“And co-operating in all respects to make sure you can conduct the investigation properly and efficiently?”
“Yes,” Mr Bryant responded.
“And it’s fair to say is it … Crown failed in each of those instances?” Mr Finkelstein queried.
“Yes, commissioner.”
Mr Bryant said the casino acted defensively, complicating and delaying the regulator’s efforts to complete its investigation.
“Everything was done through the lawyers,” he said.
The casino insisted it had strong and robust measures in place to manage risks at the start of the regulator’s probe and throughout 2018.
But by 2019, Crown publicly conceded there were “failings” in its risk management framework.
Earlier, counsel assisting the commission Adrian Finanzio said Crown provided 13,000 documents late on Friday night in response to notices for information issued as far back as March.
The inquiry continues at 10am Tuesday.

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