AUSTRAC Gets Pulled Up In Federal Court For Late Action Against Crown Resorts
- Justice Michael Lee asked AUSTRAC to explain why the case has been delayed for so long
- AUSTRAC said the delay was caused by Crown still not making formal admissions
- Crown is likely to admit to AML/CTF breaches
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) has been criticized by a Federal Court judge for not being swift enough in proceeding with its legal action against casino operator Crown Resorts.
“Extraordinary Delay” in AUSTRAC Case Against Crown
Justice Michael Lee of the Federal Court of Australia pointed out the “extraordinary delay” of AUSTRAC’s money laundering suit against Crown, saying there has been no progress in the case since the financial watchdog launched it in March 2022.
In a Federal Court hearing on Feb 13, Judge Lee said the case has been dragging on for too long, with AUSTRAC and Crown yet to agree on certain aspects despite being involved in talks for several months now.
The delay has prompted Judge Lee to question whether AUSTRAC is serious about pursuing the case, whilst making reference to negotiations that took place in the Congress of Vienna following the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte which went on for nine months.
Explaining AUSTRAC’s side, lawyer for the financial watchdog Michael Hodge KC said they are still waiting for Crown to make formal admissions before they could take the next steps. He assured Judge Lee that AUSTRAC is keen on proceeding with the lawsuit against the Australian casino operator.
Crown Likely to Admit to AML/CTF Violations
Crown is expected to admit breaches to the country’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) rules, as indicated by its lawyer Kane Loxley during the hearing.
A spokesperson for Crown stated that the company has been engaging constructively with AUSTRAC concerning the case and any improvements it needs to make regarding its programs. Crown aspires to be the “world leader” in the detection and protection of financial crime, the spokesperson added.
AUSTRAC has lodged similar cases against Star Sydney and SkyCity Adelaide, whose lawyers are also present during the hearing. Star’s attorney John Sheahan KC said his client will likely admit to the breaches.
Meanwhile, Wendy Harris KC, representing SkyCity, did not mention whether the casino operator would also do the same.
Star this week warned of a $1.6 billion writedown in its first-half results for 2023, owing to operational changes faced by its Sydney casino. Its shares fell to a record low following the warning. The company’s former directors are currently facing a separate lawsuit launched by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission which was also tackled during Monday’s hearing.