Casino enlists former top cop
One of the nation’s most distinguished police officers, former NSW deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, has been hired by Crown Resorts to review its antimoney-laundering and counterterrorism financing compliance processes and bolster the casino giant’s public image.
The appointment comes on the eve of a special inquiry that will determine whether it is fit to hold a casino licence at its $2.4bn Barangaroo development on Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Mr Kaldas will report directly to its risk management committee as a senior consultant.
The unprecedented inquiry — to be held by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority — is scheduled to commence on January 21 and will determine whether gaming tycoon James Packer’s private company, Consolidated Press Holdings, can proceed with its proposed $1.76bn sale of almost 20 per cent of Crown to Hong Kong billionaire Lawrence Ho’s Melco Group.
Confirming Mr Kaldas’s appointment on Tuesday, Crown board member and risk management committee chair Jane Halton said the 61-year-old former officer would prove a vital asset to the group and paid credit to his illustrious policing career, which included eight years with the Australian National CounterTerrorism Committee and a secondment to Lebanon in 2009 to investigate the assassination of the country’s former prime minister, Rafic Hariri.
“Mr Kaldas has extensive experience in state, national and international law enforcement spanning more than 35 years,” Ms Halton told The Australian.
“In his new role, Mr Kaldas will provide independent advice to the Crown Resorts board through the risk management committee.
“We are committed to the continued improvement of our processes and systems in every respect, including in
relation to anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism financing compliance, which extends to the way in which we work with law enforcement and regulatory agencies. Mr Kaldas’s insights should provide another dimension to these processes.”
Mr Kaldas told The Australian he welcomed the opportunity to work with Crown, adding that the stature of the role demonstrated the importance Crown placed on improving its compliance processes and riskmitigation systems.
“Just as I have done throughout my law enforcement career, I will provide Crown with frank and fearless advice as to how processes can be optimised, and how to work most closely with law enforcement and regulatory agencies at the state, federal and international level,” he said. “Crown and all casinos need to work with and receive as much information as legally possible from law enforcement to ensure they are working in unison to protect the integrity of their operations.
“To this end, I will work as closely as possible with Crown management, the board, regulators and law enforcement bodies.”
Just three years ago, Mr Kaldas was a frontrunner to replace outgoing NSW police commissioner Anthony Scipione in the state’s top law enforcement job before a fiery feud with fellow deputy Catherine Burn saw both officers leave the force.
Crown would not be drawn on the timing of Mr Kaldas’s appointment in relation to the inquiry, with a spokesman saying: “Out of respect for the ILGA inquiry and its processes, Crown does not intend to comment at this time.”
Under its terms of reference, the ILGA inquiry, to be overseen by former NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, will examine Mr Ho’s suitability to be a shareholder in Crown following revelations in the NSW parliament about his ongoing links to his father, Stanley, who is banned from being licensed to run a casino in Australia because of his alleged ties to organised crime.
If she finds Crown or its NSW subsidiary is not fit to hold the Barangaroo licence, she must then consider “what, if any, changes would be required to render those persons suitable”.
The inquiry will also examine serious allegations by Nine newspapers about Crown’s ties to money-laundering operations, human traffickers and organised crime groups. It is understood Mr Kaldas was not hired in response to those specific allegations but as a part of a wider view within
Crown that it needed to reinforce its compliance systems in line with community expectations.
Mr Packer, whose fortune is valued at $4.23bn, has not been called before the inquiry but last week told The Australian: “If I am requested to appear then I will absolutely make myself available.”
A Crown spokesman said the company operated in one of the most highly regulated industries in Australia and had a history of working closely with law enforcement, receiving more than 1800 requests for information and footage in 2019 alone.
Mr Packer’s sale of 20 per cent of Crown to Mr Ho was announced last May and represents almost half of the Australian businessman’s stake.
Half the shares have already been transferred to Mr Ho but the balance of the deal has been suspended until all regulators complete their investigations.
Former NSW police deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas at Barangaroo on Tuesday