SYDNEY, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Australian billionaire James
Packer on Friday acknowledged "many oversights" running the
casino company he founded, Crown Resorts Ltd, and
failing the licence requirements for one of its resorts by
missing four years of board meetings.
Packer quit all corporate roles at the A$7 billion ($5.3
billion) company in 2018, but set its strategy as its executive
chairman and top shareholder for more than a decade. Once a
fixture of the Australian corporate landscape, his evidence at a
commission of inquiry was his first public appearance in a year.
Like similar inquiries into Crown's resorts in Sydney and
Melbourne, the hearing on Friday was about its handling of
money-laundering risks in West Coast city Perth, which generates
a quarter of its profit.
"Looking back, there are many oversights and things that
should have been done differently," said Packer, 54, via
Before the inquiries, no Crown directors had expertise
preventing money laundering, which was an oversight, he said.
"I did not believe at that point in time that Crown Perth
was engaged in money laundering," he added.
Packer, who still owns 37% of the company, said he left
Australia in 2013 and missed board meetings of Crown's Perth
casino from then until 2016, despite being the subsidiary's
chairman. He said he should have resigned or attended.
When the former judge running the inquiry suggested Packer's
non-attendance was inconsistent with Crown's licence
requirements, he said "I accept that".
The inquiries into Crown began after media reports accused
the company of turning a blind eye to organised crime and
disregarding the safety of 19 employees arrested in China in
2016 for violating that country's anti-gambling laws.
The Sydney inquiry, where Packer testified a year earlier,
ultimately froze Crown's gambling licence in Australia's biggest
city. Another probe resulted this week in a supervisor being
tasked with overseeing the company's flagship casino in
Packer has since withdrawn his associates from the Crown
board to prevent a perception of interference. The company has
also replaced its chairman, CEO and most directors and managers
in the past year.
He told the inquiry on Friday the company was once named
"employer of the year" by the Western Australia state
government, but "I think at some point the culture slipped".
Asked if he put that down to his absence, Packer replied,
($1 = 1.3268 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Byron Kaye;
Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Stephen Coates)