In the Australian state of Western Australia and the royal commission investigating the license suitability of casino operator Crown Resorts Limited has reportedly heard surprising evidence from the firm’s former Non-Executive Deputy Chairman, John Poynton (pictured).
According to a Thursday report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Poyton left the Melbourne-headquartered casino company earlier this year after it had been refused a gambling license for its new Crown Sydney development. This denial purportedly followed a determination from an official inquiry under the stewardship of past New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin that the enterprise could have been complicit in a slew of money laundering offenses tied to its past use of foreign junket firms.
The broadcaster reported that this repudiation deeply hurt Crown Resorts Limited, which had just spent approximately $1.5 billion on building the 432-room property in the Sydney neighborhood of Barangaroo, and prompted most of its senior management figures to depart for pastures new. Poynton was purported followed out the door by the casino firm’s Chief Executive Officer, Ken Barton, as well as executives Guy Jalland and Harold Mitchell.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the denial from officials in New South Wales moreover prompted the state governments of Victoria and Western Australia, where Crown Resorts Limited runs its Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth facilities respectively, to launch analogous examinations of their own under the guise of independent royal commissions. The operator is now purportedly facing the real prospect of having its casino licenses for these jurisdictions either temporarily suspended or completely revoked.
Poynton reportedly told the three-member royal commission for Western Australia earlier this week that he had inked the deal with the casino operator’s largest shareholder in May of 2018 that saw him obligated to hand over confidential company information ‘on demand’. The Perth native purportedly explained that this arrangement with billionaire businessman James Packer came with an annual salary of about $36,000 although it had never actually resulted in any intelligence being disclosed.
Packer holds a 37% stake in Crown Resorts Limited through his Consolidated Press Holdings Proprietary Limited vehicle and reportedly signed the information-sharing understanding at the same time as stepping down from the casino firm’s eleven-member board of directors. The 53-year-old purportedly agreed a deal with the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority in April that allowed him to retain his substantial interest so long as he agreed to a number of provisions including the cancellation of any such intelligence-related agreements.
Poyton reportedly told the royal commission in Perth, which is being chaired by former Western Australia Supreme Court Judge Neville Owen, that he was ‘not sure in hindsight’ to the reasons behind his acquiescence but that the stated intention of the arrangement had ‘never happened.’ The witness purportedly finished by declaring that the whole scheme had been Packer’s idea as ‘that’s what he wanted to do and I agreed’ although he had never subsequently received any information-sharing requests.