Crown Resorts director Andrew Demetriou has found himself in hot water at the NSW casino inquiry after reading from notes in the witness box.
The former AFL boss appeared to be reading from notes outside shot when asked what he understood the role of an independent director was, as he gave evidence by video-link.
The inquiry is looking into Crown’s suitability to operate a new casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo, prompted by allegations its casinos were used for money laundering and organised crime.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Aspinall asked: “Do you think it’s appropriate for a witness to bring notes into a witness box without disclosing it to the examiner?”
“I haven’t thought about it, Mr Aspinall,” Mr Demetriou replied.
He told the inquiry he had written the notes himself and had about half a dozen pages. Inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin adjourned briefly on Monday afternoon so that Mr Demetriou’s counsel could ascertain what notes he had used while giving evidence.
Earlier, Mr Demetriou defended the gambling giant against suggestions it is not fit to operate a new casino in Sydney, describing it as a “very good organisation” and a “fine business”.
His questioning coincided with Crown alerting the ASX that Victoria’s gaming regulator had issued it with a show-cause notice over compliance issues relating to junket operators. Crown shares had fallen 2.33 per cent to $8.77 at midday.
Mr Demetriou was defensive of the company, characterising its problems as historical and insisting those with its culture of compliance had been addressed.
At times inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin appeared frustrated.
Mr Demetriou refused to concede Crown had turned a blind eye to money laundering, and said that only a very small number of transactions through two Crown bank accounts alleged to have facilitated money laundering were problematic.
“One of the problems I think you face is that the matter went on even after the inquiry was announced,” Ms Bergin told him. “The bank accounts were still open, and apparently you weren’t made aware of it.”
Ms Bergin said there were “a number of layers of problems here” and “at the moment, I simply do not know what the company says about the problems in this area”.
Mr Demetriou also stood by an aggressive full-page ad published by Crown in the wake of reporting by Nine in 2019 that detailed problems with Crown’s use of Chinese junket operators and its anti-money laundering processes.
The ad has come under criticism during the inquiry but Mr Demetriou said he would only change a few details in light of the information he now knows.
He said he would still describe the media reporting as “deceitful campaign against Crown”.
Mr Demetriou blamed the compliance culture of Crown Resorts for failures which led to the 2016 arrest of staff in China and accusations they had breached Chinese law by luring Chinese nationals to gamble in Australia.
Mr Demetriou, who has sat on Crown’s board since 2015, told the inquiry that the company’s risk management processes were good but that important information was not escalated to the board.
“That is not a failure of our processes, but it speaks more of a failure of culture,” Mr Demetriou said on Monday.
Mr Demetriou said chief executive Ken Barton would lead a review into the problems with the company’s culture of compliance, but said there was no plan to look at the history of the organisation as a whole.
“We were a very good organisation. We run a very large and complex business employing 18,500 people. You don’t win the Australian Employer of the Year three times unless you are running a fine business,” he said.
“In some aspects we’ve proven to be deficient, particularly in the areas this inquiry has looked at. But it’s not to say we don’t run a very fine business in other areas.”
The inquiry is scheduled to continue all week, with other directors including Crown chair and former Australian senator Helen Coonan scheduled to appear.