Watchdog takes casino giant Star to court
Star Entertainment is potentially facing civil penalties that could add up to billions of dollars for hundreds of alleged breaches of federal anti-money laundering laws.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) lodged a case against the ASX-listed gambling giant in the Federal Court on Wednesday after wrapping up a joint probe with police and regulators in NSW and Queensland, which began in September 2019.
The case comes after Star was stripped of its casino licence and fined a record $100 million last month, following a royal commission-style inquiry.
The Queensland government has declared the company unfit to hold a licence and is considering further action after a similar probe.
AUSTRAC alleges Star allowed customers to move money through non-transparent and highly risky channels, didn’t know where the money in those channels was coming from and failed to consider their ongoing business relationships with higher-risk patrons.
The regulator says Star Sydney has breached the law 1189 times, and Star Queensland has breached the law 325 times, since November 2016, with each individual breach carrying a maximum penalty between $18 million and $22.2 million.
AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose says all casinos must take anti-money laundering obligations seriously as “criminals will always seek to exploit the financial system to launder their money”.
“AUSTRAC’s investigation identified a multitude of issues including poor governance and failures of risk management and to have and maintain a compliant AML/CTF (anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing) program,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Star Entities also failed to carry out appropriate ongoing customer due diligence which has led to widespread and serious non-compliance over a number of years.”
Star chief executive Robbie Cooke said the company had co-operated with investigators and was reviewing AUSTRAC’s statement of claim.
“We are transforming our culture, transforming our business. We are committed to improvement but there is a lot still to do,” he told the ASX in a statement.
“Our goal is to earn back the trust and confidence of AUSTRAC and all our regulators. We will continue to work with AUSTRAC as we build a better, stronger and more sustainable company.”
Last month, the NSW casino regulator took the unprecedented step of suspending Star’s Sydney casino licence as well as slapping a record $100 million fine on the company after an inquiry revealed a litany of compliance failures, including ties with notorious gang-linked junket operators and Chinese debit card transactions being disguised as hotel expenses.
The Pyrmont venue has continued to trade under a licence held by a Nick Weeks, a government-appointed manager.
The Queensland review declared Star unfit to hold its two casino licences in the state after finding the company had neglected its anti-money laundering and responsible gaming duties and deliberately misled regulators in pursuit of profit.
Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman told AAP the government was considering Star’s responses to its show-cause notice, 바카라사이트추천 and will make a determination on “the most appropriate disciplinary action” in coming weeks.