Crown Perth junk regulation challenged after pizza and fishing invites with casino managers

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The former WA chief casino officer was juggling invitations to pizza nights, movie nights, skydiving and fishing trips with Crown Perth executives in negotiations to ease junket regulation, the Perth Casino Royal Commission was told.

The investigation found yesterday that Michael Connolly approved changes to the junket rules in the casino manual in April 2017 regarding the powers conferred on him by the Gaming and Wagering Commission (GWC).

The decision came a day after he was invited to a pizza night by Paul Hulme, former Crown Perth compliance chief.

But the two men had been discussing Crown Perth’s proposed junket changes for two months, as well as a planned fishing trip to Jurien Bay with their friend and Mr. Hulme’s colleague Claude Marais.

Verdict not affected: Connolly

Mr Connolly said he and Mr Hulme also wanted to go skydiving on the trip.

Mr Connolly (right) approved changes to Crown’s Junket Rules in 2017.(

ABC News: James Carmody

)

Adviser to Patricia Cahill: “Did it happen at the time that your friendship with Mr. Hulme could tarnish your judgment of what the GWC should do about the changes to the casino manual?”

Mr. Connolly: “No, it didn’t cross my mind at the time and I don’t think so either – but no.”

Mrs. Cahill: “Or that Mr Hulme and Mr Marais are purposely friendship with you to facilitate your consent to inquiries like this?”

Mr. Connolly: “No, I don’t think that happened.”

Making his second appearance on the Royal Commission, Mr Connolly was the Chief Casino Officer from 2012 until earlier this year when he resigned after his friendship with Mr Marais became public.

He’s now on long-term leave and will no longer work in casino regulation, the new director general of the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries, Lanie Chopping, said last week.

Warnings started years ago

On his first appearance, Mr Connolly told the Royal Commission that the GWC was not responsible for overseeing the risks of money laundering and criminal infiltration via junkets in the casino as this is being done by the financial crime regulator Austrac and the Australian Border Force.

Wide angle view of Crown Casino Perth with the Swan River in the foreground.
Money laundering concerns were raised at Crown Perth as early as 2017.(

ABC News: Andrew O’Connor

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On Tuesday, the royal commission was told WA had the weakest junket regulation in the country when media reports in 2019 claimed that international criminal groups laundered money through Australian casinos, including Crown Perth.

But Mr Connolly admitted that in two years he had not told GWC that they were taking the wrong approach.

The investigation found that Mr Connolly was warned by a compliance officer in 2017 about conduct that could indicate money laundering at Crown Perth.

A sign with the Crown Resorts logo in front of bushes next to a road.
WA junket regulations are weaker than other states, the Royal Commission has been told.(

ABC News: Hugh Sando

)

That same year, the financial crime watchdog Austrac also wrote to Mr. Connolly, highlighting concerns about his ability to prosecute international money laundering.

However, Mr. Connolly did not tell the GWC about any of these warnings as it tried to respond to the media reports.

Mrs. Cahill: “Obviously, when Austrac told you in 2017 that this dependency on Austrac and Border Force was out of place and then you had allegations spread in the 60 Minute Report about the risks of these junkets, you are in yours Position as ” [deputy director-general] and the chief casino officer should have put it all right in front of the GWC and said, “We have to find another way to reduce the risk. Here’s what I propose ‘. “

Mr. Connolly: “Obviously I’ve failed. Obviously I’ve failed.”


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