Independent investigation needed into Adelaide casino operations: SA-BEST
SA-BEST today urged the State Government to commit to an independent investigation into the Adelaide casino operations of the SkyCity Entertainment Group for any evidence of criminal activity.
SA-BEST MLC and Gambling spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, has today written to the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs, Liquor and Gambling, Dini Soulio, requesting his office undertake the inquiry.
Her call has been sparked by legal action launched in the South Australian Supreme Court by Chinese millionaire, Mr Linong Ma, against SkyCity Adelaide, and junket operators Xiongming Xie and Fang Zhuangqian in relation to gambling sessions at the casino in May 2019 during which Mr Ma allegedly won more than $5 million.
In his Statement of Claim, Mr Ma claims Mr Xie was arrested in Sydney in July 2019 and charged with “having allegedly ... threatened a man with a knife, demanded the transfer of a $10 million property and stabbed the man almost to death’’.
Mr Ma further claims that when SkyCity transferred money to the Supreme Court, it “was put on enquiry as to whether or not Mr Xie was a dangerous and violent criminal” and “had links with Asian Triad criminal gangs’’.
“The claims deeply disturb me and reinforce what SA-BEST has long feared – criminal groups may be using the SkyCity Adelaide casino to launder money,” Connie said.
“Casinos around the world are notorious for being used by crime gangs like the Mafia and Triads to launder their dirty money – why would SkyCity Adelaide be any different,” she asked.
“The State Government and the authorities are absolutely in denial if they don’t think illegal activity doesn’t take place at gambling establishments like SkyCity Adelaide.
“What independent checks and balances does the government have in place to ensure it doesn’t – or critically, does it take as gospel what casino management tells them?
“The State Government’s reluctance to investigate the casino disturbs me greatly – particularly given the serious allegations of questionable junket operators frequenting the facility with their guests.
“It makes one wonder if the hundreds of millions of dollars a year the government receives from SkyCity Adelaide in taxes from its gambling operations has some influence.”
Connie referred to a damning report released in New South Wales last month which found Crown Resorts – the owner of casinos in Melbourne and Perth – is not suitable to hold a casino licence in that state, despite having already built a $2.2 billion complex in Sydney's new Barangaroo precinct.
The Bergen report - undertaken by former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergen - uncovered major flaws in the company's corporate governance, which facilitated money laundering and links to criminal gangs in Crown's operations in Victoria and Western Australia.
That report recommended junket operators be banned from dealing with casino operators in that state, that legislation be tightened to put the onus on casinos to prevent money laundering, and said “criminal elements, probably including international criminal organisations’’ had run hundreds of millions of dollars through Crown accounts.
Those revelations have triggered royal commissions in Victoria and WA, both looking into Crown Resorts and its dealings with junket operators, as well as the resignations of Crown Resorts’ CEO and a number of Board members.
“The Treasurer needs to explain in more detail than he has initially, why he is so reluctant to investigate SkyCity Adelaide,” Connie said.
“To pin that decision solely on the Commissioner – who has apparently advised the government that an independent inquiry into the casino is not necessary at this time – blatantly ignores his broader responsibilities to the taxpayers of South Australia,” she said.
“There is now compelling evidence before the courts alleging questionable junket operators are frequenting the casino.
“Further, with heightened attention by regulators on interstate casino operators, there are increasing concerns individuals and criminal groups that use casinos for nefarious means are turning their attention to casinos like those in Adelaide due to the fact they are not subject to as much scrutiny.
“What more proof does the Treasurer need before calling for the inquiry?”