Crown Resorts takes out newspaper ads in attack on 'deceitful campaign'

After days of issuing brief statements denying wrongdoing, Crown Resorts circulated a letter signed by its board on July 31, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian casino giant Crown Resorts issued full-page newspaper ads on Thursday (Aug 1) describing recent media reports that alleged it pressured officials to fast-track visas for Chinese gamblers as a "deceitful campaign".

Following the reports by several news outlets, Attorney-General Christian Porter said on Tuesday that he had referred the allegations to an anti-corruption body that investigates federal agencies, since they related to government officials.

After days of issuing brief statements denying wrongdoing, Crown circulated a letter signed by its board late on Wednesday, accusing the papers of waging a "deceitful campaign" that had unfairly attempted to damage its reputation.

"Much of this unbalanced and sensationalised reporting is based on unsubstantiated allegations, exaggerations, unsupported connections and outright falsehoods," the directors said in the letter.

Signatories included Crown executive chairman John Alexander, former finance department head Jane Halton, former communications minister Helen Coonan and Mr Geoff Dixon, the former chief executive of Qantas Airways.

That statement appeared as full-page advertisements in papers owned by News Corp on Thursday.

However, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age newspapers, which published the articles, said they had refused to run the advertisements and instead carried a line-by-line response to Crown's statement.

"The stories were carefully sourced using Crown's internal documents, former employees, credible commentators, dozens of sources from the industry, law enforcement and elsewhere, and careful verification," the newspapers wrote in response to Crown's letter.

The papers, owned by Nine Entertainment Co Holdings, added that they had asked Crown for an interview and sent 63 questions days before the reports, to which Crown responded "with a short statement" declining to comment on individuals.

Crown shares have fallen 6.4 per cent in three trading days since the papers and Nine's 60 Minutes television news programme started running the reports.

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