Watchdog takes casino giant Star to court

Star Entertainment is potentially facing civil penalties that could add up to billions of dollars for hundreds of alleged breaches of federal anti-money laundering laws.

The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) lodged a case against the ASX-listed gambling giant in the Federal Court on Wednesday after wrapping up a joint probe with police and regulators in NSW and Queensland, which began in September 2019.

The case comes after Star was stripped of its casino licence and fined a record $100 million last month, following a royal commission-style inquiry.

The Queensland government has declared the company unfit to hold a licence and is considering further action after a similar probe.

AUSTRAC alleges Star allowed customers to move money through non-transparent and highly risky channels, didn’t know where the money in those channels was coming from and failed to consider their ongoing business relationships with higher-risk patrons.

The regulator says Star Sydney has breached the law 1189 times, and Star Queensland has breached the law 325 times, since November 2016, 아시안커넥트 with each individual breach carrying a maximum penalty between $18 million and $22.2 million.

AUSTRAC chief executive Nicole Rose says all casinos must take anti-money laundering obligations seriously as “criminals will always seek to exploit the financial system to launder their money”.

“AUSTRAC’s investigation identified a multitude of issues including poor governance and failures of risk management and to have and maintain a compliant AML/CTF (anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing) program,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Star Entities also failed to carry out appropriate ongoing customer due diligence which has led to widespread and serious non-compliance over a number of years.”

Star chief executive Robbie Cooke said the company had co-operated with investigators and was reviewing AUSTRAC’s statement of claim.

“We are transforming our culture, transforming our business. We are committed to improvement but there is a lot still to do,” he told the ASX in a statement.

“Our goal is to earn back the trust and confidence of AUSTRAC and all our regulators. We will continue to work with AUSTRAC as we build a better, stronger and more sustainable company.”

Last month, the NSW casino regulator took the unprecedented step of suspending Star’s Sydney casino licence as well as slapping a record $100 million fine on the company after an inquiry revealed a litany of compliance failures, including ties with notorious gang-linked junket operators and Chinese debit card transactions being disguised as hotel expenses.

The Pyrmont venue has continued to trade under a licence held by a Nick Weeks, a government-appointed manager.

The Queensland review declared Star unfit to hold its two casino licences in the state after finding the company had neglected its anti-money laundering and responsible gaming duties and deliberately misled regulators in pursuit of profit.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman told AAP the government was considering Star’s responses to its show-cause notice, and will make a determination on “the most appropriate disciplinary action” in coming weeks.