South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon has made no secret of his deplorable view towards poker machines. His anti-pokies crusade has stretched on for what seems like forever now, and a recent multi-million money laundering case has added buckets of fuel to the campaign fire.
Sen. Xenophon’s latest political efforts are geared towards a crackdown against money laundering in Australian casinos, motivated by the alleged laundering of $850 million through poker machines at Melbourne’s Crown Casino by a Chinese-Australian businessman.
This case was easily uncovered because it involved such a large sum of money, Xenophon told The Australian Financial Review, but he noted that other cases involving smaller amounts have skidded below the surface of the regulatory spotlight.
The SA Senator said the nation’s money laundering laws are in great need of reform, starting with a decrease in the reporting threshold for Australian casinos. Presently, operators are only required to file a report when transactions of $10,000 or more are detected. Xenophon says that figure must be reduced to $1,000, and should include monitoring all turnovers, not just winnings from poker machines.
“Around Australia today money laundering is taking place using pokie machines,” Xenphon told AFR. He said this latest crusade isn’t just against pokies. “It’s about the casinos and pokies being used to provide a high-speed washing and drying service.”
He went on to explain why drug dealers love the pokies more than anyone. “If you’ve just done a crystal meth deal, you could launder proceeds of that through the pokies, because the reporting requirements are so anaemic,” he said.
Money Laundering Scandal of Epic Proportions
A lengthy investigation by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) discovered that, from 2005 to 2013, Chinese-Australian businessman Dai Bai Shun Jin recorded a total buy-in/cash-out of over AUD $850 million at the Crown Casino in Melbourne.
It is the AFP’s belief that Mr. Jin isn’t just another affluent gambling addict, but that he’s using the casino’s poker machines to launder money. The way the laws are now, criminals can easily walk into an Australian casino, make a large buy-in, then cash-out for different sources of money, effectively washing and drying any dirty money they came in with.
The AFP’s submission to the Supreme Court, explaining its investigation into the Chinese-Australian citizen’s activities, states that, “Jin’s gambling appeared to be astronomical.”
The evidence against Mr. Jin began to mount when he claimed to have USD-$300k in annual base salary from China, another USD-$200k in bi-annual cash bonuses and a further USD-$100k in share value. However, he was unable to provide the court with any evidence to those claims, and has never once filed a tax return in Australia.
Australian Casino Claims Compliance
A spokeswoman for Crown Casino was unable to comment on the case at hand, due to the existing legal proceedings. She did say the operator’s regulator-approved anti-money laundering compliance program reports all sizable transactions, as required, and that regular audits by AUSTRAC have revealed no significant compliance issues.
“Crown has a strong reputation for co-operation with law enforcement agencies and works closely with Australian state and federal law enforcement to assist them with their intelligence gathering and operations, which may include giving evidence in court proceedings,” the spokeswoman said.
AUSTRAC recently submitted a report to parliament following an inquiry on financial crimes in which the agency stated that VIP rooms at casinos could be vulnerable to money laundering due to the availability of high-stakes action.
“It is common for players to gamble with large volumes of cash, the source and ultimate ownership of which may not be readily discernible,” said AUSTRAC.