The Australian gaming authority’s inquiry into Crown Resorts money laundering allegations claimed another leader this week. Crown CEO Ken Barton resigned while the company fights for its casino license.
Casino License at Stake
During an ongoing inquiry into Crown’s casino license worthiness, allegations of money laundering emerged. A report by former New South Wales Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin recommended that Crown’s license should not be renewed.
According to the Bergin report, the Crown was “facilitating money laundering, exposing staff to the risk of detention in a foreign jurisdiction, and pursuing commercial relationships with individuals with connections to Triads and organized crime groups.”
The inquiry revealed that money laundering operations occurred under the watch of several Crown executives, most of which have exited in disgrace. Former Crown chief James Packer testified regarding his involvement in the scandal since he maintains a majority shareholder at the Crown.
Judge Bergin claimed that Packer acted as a “de facto director” even though he hasn’t sat on the board for years. She suggested Packer had a “dysfunctional influence” on the company.
Million Dollar Exit
Five Crown leaders have exited during the ongoing licensing inquiry. According to The Guardian, Barton is expected to exit with a $2.3 million payout when he leaves. Apparently, the corporate culture of paying failed and criminally negligent CEOs is not unique to America.
Other Crown execs who left the sinking ship include Guy Jalland, Michael Johnston, and James Packer.
When he was CFO of Crown, Barton was responsible for two VIP accounts linked to criminal gangs laundering money to fund their illegal operations. Bergin stated that Barton demonstrated a “breath-taking lack of care” when responding to money laundering allegations.
Barton was appointed CEO in January 2020 after being at the company for more than a decade. The current board chair, Helen Coonan, will replace Barton until a new CEO is found.
As a result of the investigation, Bergin recommended that 10% equity caps be placed on Crown ownership. This means that Packer would be forced to divest himself of his majority shares in the company.
Packer stated during the Bergin inquiry that he would be ready to give up his Crown stake if it protected the company’s licenses.
Last December, Crown’s latest casino in Sydney was forced to close its casino amid the scandal. It is only allowed to operate the resort section of the property until further notice.
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