Australia's Crown Resorts CEO resigns after damning inquiry report

An inquiry into money laundering allegations found Crown Resorts CEO Ken Barton was not fit for the job.
An inquiry into money laundering allegations found Crown Resorts CEO Ken Barton was not fit for the job.PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (REUTERS, AFP) - Crown Resorts chief executive officer Ken Barton resigned on Monday (Feb 15) after an inquiry into money laundering allegations found he was not fit for the job, putting its gambling licence in jeopardy.

Current chair Helen Coonan would assume the role of executive chairman on an interim basis, effective immediately, while the board searched for a new CEO, Crown said in a statement.

Andrew Demetriou, the chairman of Crown Melbourne where the alleged money laundering took place, resigned on Friday, days after two other directors representing major shareholder James Packer also stepped down.

The report, a year-long inquiry commissioned by the New South Wales state gambling watchdog, laid bare allegations of widespread money laundering and governance failures at Crown, calling for sweeping changes to its board and culture.

The report singled Mr Barton out as "no match for what is needed at the helm of a casino licensee" and said that the regulator could not have confidence in dealing with him.

"Assuming the role of executive chairman is a decision I have not taken lightly but the Board feels it provides leadership stability and certainty at this important time for the business," Ms Coonan said in Monday's statement.

"The Board is determined to maintain the momentum as Crown takes significant steps to improve our governance, compliance and culture," she said.

The public inquiry last week recommended Crown should be denied a licence to run a new multi-billion-dollar casino that dominates Sydney's skyline, over its failure to address allegations of money laundering and links to organised crime.

The New South Wales Liquor and Gaming Authority commissioned the public inquiry after media reports that existing Crown casinos in Australia were used to launder profits from human trafficking, drugs, child sexual exploitation and terrorism.

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin said Crown was "not suitable" for a licence and had been "facilitating money laundering" and doing business with groups linked to triads and other organised crime organisations.

A company lawyer had told the inquiry that illicit funds were "probably" laundered through two high roller accounts at the company's operations in Perth and Melbourne.

Ms Bergin said the company had "poor corporate governance, deficient risk management... and a poor corporate culture", recommending a series of reforms before the casino at the gleaming 75-storey tower on Sydney's waterfront could open.