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Rules are for poor people

In 2012, the OECD Anti-Bribery working group released a report saying they had “serious concerns that overall enforcement of the foreign bribery offence to date has been extremely low” in Australia.

“Out of 28 foreign bribery referrals that have been received by the Australian Federal Police (AFP), 21 have been concluded without charges. The Working Group thus recommends that the AFP take sufficient steps to ensure that foreign bribery allegations are not prematurely closed, and be more proactive in gathering information from diverse sources at the pre-investigative stage.”

One of the terminated cases involved James Packer.

Casino Foreign Bribery Case

In 2009, authorities in a foreign country brought charges against one of their officials for domestic bribery and listed two projects by an Australian casino company as suspect projects in the indictment. According to media reports, indications of bribery included the fact that the casinos were granted land that was originally planned for the construction of a university, and construction began before formal rezoning procedures were completed and recorded. Australia reported to the Working Group that the AFP supported investigations by the foreign authorities, but did not start a domestic investigation.

Despite Macau prosecutors listing James Packer’s Crown Macau and the City of Dreams among at least 10 “suspect projects” involving bribe-taking and money laundering in an indictment against former Macau public works minister Ao Man-long, Packer escaped any investigation or penalty.

In the tendering process for the first Sydney casino in the early 1990s, James Packer was tasked with intimidating John Fahey’s Liberal government into ensuring the licence ended up in Packer hands.

“The old man told me to ring … this is the message. If we don’t win the casino, you guys are f*cked.”

Packer didn’t win the bid and the Fahey government folded not long afterwards.

Fast forward to August 2012, and James Packer goes to see the then premier, Barry O’Farrell, to forcefully make his case for a second casino for Sydney. Just a week after the O’Farrell meeting, the need for independent reviews over the process was done away with, and the bid was secured in record time of seven weeks. It was given a favourable tax rate and green-lit without anything as embarrassing as a public meeting.

On the 22nd of November 2012, Packer’s mother Ros makes a donation of $570,000 to the Liberal Party.

According to Michael Brodie of the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, the probity check of Crown took just three months. He described it as “one of the fastest assessments of a casino applicant in history”. The development applications were similarly expedited, and Crown and the developer Lendlease made numerous changes to the applications after they were already approved, cannibalising public parkland and significantly increasing the floor space. A community-based legal challenge failed.

The project tried to damp down controversy by targeting overseas high rollers only, especially those from Asia, with VIP-only membership rules. Crown also lobbied the Productivity Commission to introduce express visas from China, and the Turnbull government obliged. Like the Star, the Barangaroo casino won’t be subject to alcohol restrictions or smoking bans. Apparently it is only poor people’s smoke that is harmful.

But back to the business plan of luring high-rollers from China – it’s illegal and 17 Crown employees were arrested and incarcerated in China last November for “gambling crimes”.

Crown’s ploy was to present Barangaroo as a “resort” but the Chinese authorities weren’t taken in by this flimsy cover. Macau-based Ben Lee, who has worked for Star and Crown in Australia, and now consults to international companies on Asian gambling strategies, said “this is one company, Crown, that believed they had insulated themselves with the myth they are marketing a resort. This was the height of folly.”

But that’s the way James Packer works – splash money around, buy influence and forget the rules – and it has put him in hot water again.

Mr Packer is reported to be seeking Israeli citizenship, which would exempt him from paying tax on assets he owns outside the country for 10 years. Company documents filed in Hong Kong reveal that, for at least the past 18 months, Mr Packer has been telling authorities in the former British colony his residential address­ is an apartment in the Royal Beach Hotel, overlooking the Tel Aviv seaside.

Rather than pursuing the ordinary channels, God forbid, Packer has been accused of giving lavish gifts to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, who are under criminal investigation for possible corruption.

Mr Packer purchased a million-dollar beachfront mansion in Israel right next door to the private home of Mr Netanyahu, and began making substantial investments in Israel’s booming tech market.

In March 2015, Mr Packer was a surprise special guest in the audience when Mr Netanyahu addressed the US Congress in Washington. He then appeared at another speech Mr Netanyahu gave to the UN General Assembly in New York later that year, standing with senior Israeli officials and the Netanyahu family.

The Israeli media report alleged Mr Packer showered lavish treatment on the Prime Minister’s family, particularly on his 25-year-old son, Yair, giving him numerous free luxurious holidays at properties he owns and rents around the world.

Mr Packer reportedly gave 10 tickets to a Mariah Carey concert held near Tel Aviv to the Prime Minister’s wife, Sara, whom Israeli police have recommended should be indicted over separate allegations of misuse of public funds, and seven tickets to Yossi Cohen, the head of intelligence agency Mossad.

Under foreign bribery laws, the AFP is responsible for invest­igating allegations of payments or gifts by Australian businesses to foreign leaders and their families­. It is an offence, punishable by up to 10 years’ jail and a fine of up to $1.7 million, to bribe a foreign public official but, according to the ABC, there is no active investigation by the AFP into Mr Packer.

A few years ago, Donald Trump was quoted saying that if American companies refused to give bribes, “you’ll do business nowhere”.

One wonders why the Coalition is trying to get rid of regulations – and Trump likewise. It seems obvious they are no impediment provided you have enough money.

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28 comments

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  1. townsvilleblog

    If these tory turds push the ordinary working Australian any harder we will see a revolution against this capitalist conservative extremist right wing Abbott/Turnbull government, the penalty rates slashing was the last straw. When mothers and fathers do not have money to put food on the table for their children, which is soon arriving, it will be on for young and old.

  2. Ella Miller

    Kaye Lee, it seems that “all animals are created equal but some animals are more equal than others” G. Orwell
    It also seems to help if you have friends in high places and you make sure they receive dark money payed to their electoral funds.
    We need an ICAC ..seeing AFP are turning a blind eye.

  3. leighton8

    More Muck ….. the older I get, the more I wonder how some of these people can live with themselves, much less sleep at night.

  4. Ella Miller

    leighton8, the $ notes hidden under their mattress makes a soft bed, the crunching noise makes a good lullaby…..hence they sleep well whilst we let them.

  5. Miriam English

    Methinks the Australian Federal Police need to be investigated for corruption too.

  6. Kaye Lee

    “Business is good right now, but now my personal life is a disaster,” – James Packer 2014 after spit from girlfriend Jennifer Flavin, fiance Kate Fischer, wives Jodie and Erica, but before splits from girlfriend Miranda Kerr and fiance Mariah Carey.

    Gina Rinehart and James Packer are two of the richest people in Australia. They are also two of the unhappiest people in Australia.

  7. Matters Not

    Packer is in many ways just like Murdoch – a believer in a fair and balanced approach when it comes to a whole range of matters, including political corruption. Whether they be Liberal or Labor, the supposed ideological divide matters not a jot, Packer, like his father before him, simply buys them all – if they have something to sell.

    … the appointments are bipartisan. Karl Bitar works as a lobbyist for Crown, as does Mark Arbib, and former Howard government communications minister Helen Coonan sits on the company’s board. The newly assembled lobby group Responsible Wagering Australia (Crown’s online gambling portal, CrownBet, is a foundation member) immediately secured the services of outgoing Labor senator Stephen Conroy as its head and roped in former Liberal senator Richard Colbeck as chairman. In the same week, former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell became head of Racing Australia. His predecessor was ex-Nationals MP Peter McGauran. Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, is also a Packer employee.

    They all have their price. They all have political contacts to sell. Perhaps Bligh will be next?

    Still, to truly appreciate just how lubricated the wheels of government are for gaming, it is a project not yet completed that provides the best example. James Packer’s “integrated resort” at the centre of Sydney’s Barangaroo development has been described as “a phallic symbol of greed and kitsch with a vengeance” and an “opalescent dildo”.

    One wonders what Australia’s reaction will be if China decides to charge Packer re Casino offences. You know to actually charge the person who gave the orders; the person who had most to benefit from illegalities – rather than those who simply obeyed. If extradition is requested – will Australia or Israel oblige? (Just joking.)

  8. helvityni

    I watched this week’s Four Corners, and found Packer’s behaviour totally disgusting,and our Liberal Premiers assisting him in his unsavoury business equally so.
    I did not know that gambling is illegal in China, how good is that. The Aussie Packers see it as an opening for a new kind of business; bribe the Chinese to come here to lose their money…

  9. jimhaz

    A friend told me 6 or so months ago that casinos at the big end were just a money laundering game.

    Ie take big gambling losses in one country, then win big in the country where you want the money to be placed.

    I’m sure this is “organisable” by the Son of Goanna

  10. margcal

    I’d also love to see the money trail related to the Melbourne City Council giving Crown the green light to build Melbourne’s (latest) tallest building – contrary to Council’s own density rules put in place to prevent inappropriate development.

  11. Kaye Lee

    Court documents from a recent case reveal Hoang ran as much as $1 billion in black cash through Crown between 2000 and 2012.

    He also was allowed to gamble under four different names and received a slew of perks, including overseas holidays, cash gifts of as much as $100,000, and gambling “commissions” in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) estimates at least $15 billion a year is laundered in and through Australia each year; other estimates suggest it is higher.

    Much of that money is the result of drug trafficking.

    Despite being targeted during a 2005 to 2006 ACC operation dubbed Operation Gordian, and with a series of intelligence reports revealing his role as a drug trafficker and money launderer, Hoang remained a fixture at Crown until he was charged with money laundering in late 2012.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-11/pete-tan-hoang-ran-up-to-1-billion-dollars-through-crown-casino/5960678

  12. Zathras

    Gambling (or inciting others to gamble) is as illegal in China as is drug-smuggling in Thailand or Malaysia.

    Predatory companies such as Amway and Avon are also banned there.

    Packer knows this as do those employees who were arrested on the Chinese mainland, but that’s how he wants to make his money.

    Apparently making an honest living just doesn’t pay enough for some people.

    At least the Chinese are doing something about corruption and money laundering in their country.

  13. Matters Not

    Chinese are doing something about corruption and money laundering in their country.

    So is Russia under Putin. There, corruption, which was once found at all levels, has virtually been eliminated at almost every level. Now it’s found only at the highest level with Putin and his extended family absolutely rolling in it. A one stop shop. I suspect that’s the case in China as well. The ‘common sense’ in many of these countries is that you are stupid if you don’t profit from the power you have.

    The US under Trump has at the choice of at least two role models to follow. And in their terms – he is not stupid. All those ‘Trump’ patents approved at supercharged speed will require a quid pro quo. Deals aplenty.

  14. Ill fares the land

    Spare a thought for poor “besieged” James. He thought he could treat foreign laws with contempt and be the bully in China that he is in Australia – aided and abetted by the corrupt weasels (aka former politicians) who left their Parliamentary roles on nice fat pensions and took jobs helping Packer get his tasteless and greedy way. It is the case that he is of a breed that believes he is invincible and past experience would even suggest he is right – in Australia at least – it is easy to buy dunderheads in all parties and at all levels of government and arrange to get his stooges placed in the right roles.

    And worse, the only way he can achieve his commercial aims is to, in effect corrupt governments to the extent that when a Premier dares to stand up to him, Packer has enough party members on his payroll to roll the Premier. Words like “shameful” and “disgraceful” are inadequate.

    I think one of two things has happened in China.

    Either a rich Chinese who was being pursued for a gambling debt and possibly even threatened with violence has had a word to a “friendly” but corrupt government official and the government has responded by making a number of arrests – oh, and enforcing their own anti-gambling laws.

    The alternative is that Packer’s Chinese business partner has decided it is time for him to take over, or that he simply can’t work with or be subordinate to the bully-boy any longer, so he talks to a “friendly” but corrupt government official who then arranges for a number of arrests. If this is the case, it is the archetypal Chinese scam. The Chinese wait for the right moment and then arrange for the foreigner’s interest to somehow be devalued or become untenable in a way that leaves the foreigner with no redress under Chinese law (bearing in mind Packer’s employees have arguably been breaking Chinese laws). The result in this case, if I am right, is that Crown might be compelled to either walk away from or sell its Macau interests to Chinese interests – at a fire sale price. It would be a nice outcome – Packer being cheated yes, but in essence played at his own game.

  15. Kronomex

    All I can think of, and you’ll pardon the French, is a line from the Roman Senate in History of the World Part 1, and I quote, “F*ck the Poor!”
    Pretty much sums up the LNP.

  16. The Fool

    Not impressed at all! Who runs his casinos is as bad as. The public has got no idea what does go on behind the curtins. It would be really interesting to interview the hundreds of people that used to work in the gaming dept (apparently crown Perth is the one to start with) and listen to what most of them have got to say. Unfortunately who most of the currently employed people, are too afraid to talk as if found out, equals to instant dismissal. This bad management of staff +, is just a reflection of the arrogance that comes from the top, down to table managers and pit bosses (or whatever they are called) perhaps it is time somebody grows some guts and starts an anonymous investigation. Funny how when one mentions casino in a legal situation, how many do run away scared, and how many lawyers do take advantages of the small workers seeking some justice. It is also hard to give proof when the psycho terror is a covert one. Personally after having heard way too many appalling stories from the gaming staff especially, the casino as gaming, doesn’t exist any longer. If unfairness and dishonesty do reign supreme among staff, sooner or later will affect the patrons too (let’s not mention the tech side of it all!). Packer has shown many times just in these last few years, that he only has money and knows people but as far as business man… he is so not. It is about time that somebody opens that pandora’s box starting from the bottom up. Cause cleaning the top in general only, doesn’t get rid off the unfairness of the local managements. At the end of the story, are always the workers that have to pay the dire consequences of the incompetence of the few that run his local companies. It is about time to put a stop on this criminal reality!

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    It would be interesting to ask Julie Bishop what she thinks of her mate, James Packer’s Chinese casino business dealings.

  18. Kaye Lee

    “Crown might be compelled to either walk away from or sell its Macau interests to Chinese interests – at a fire sale price. It would be a nice outcome”

    He already is walking away but making a motza doing it. Crown has sold down its residual Melco Crown interest from 27 per cent to 14 per cent and abandoned plans to develop a new $US2 billion-plus casino complex in Las Vegas. Crown’s partner in Macau, the Melco International group headed by Lawrence Ho, saw Crown’s plan to distance its Australian business from its offshore assets as an opportunity to gain control of Melco Crown and approached Packer with a simpler and cleaner exit strategy.

    He will pay $US18 a share, or about $1.6 billion, at a modest premium to the prices at which Melco Crown shares have been trading to acquire just under half Crown’s stake. That will lift his interest in Melco Crown to just over 50 per cent, cementing absolute control.

    The sale allows Crown to reduce the perceived risk profile of its asset base and the discount within its share price for that risk, strengthen its balance sheet and reward shareholders — including Packer himself — with both cash and improved financial performance metrics.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/stephen-bartholomeusz/james-packer-cashing-out-of-macau/news-story/5f30622eb8c83b8c67ec1a2f9c97191f

  19. lawrencesroberts

    Clogs to clogs in 3 generations?

    Well, 4 generations for the Packers. Remember how the mad dogs savaged Allan Bond when they could smell blood and Brandis is still making good money for his lawyer mates over the entrails.

  20. 245179

    JM-S……we all…..have a fair idea, what her automated response will be.

    KL………agree with both posts.

    wealth and power go hand in hand, always have / will. There is a noticeable trend to pure greed with those participants. They shamelessly invade govts, and more and more govts succumb to that power. The “powerful” know for a fact, everyone has a “price” that others will be bought for. In more recent yrs this corruption has gained a gear, we are entering unchartered waters.

  21. Lizzy

    The new Perth football stadium is being built on land adjacent to James Packer’s Crown Casino at great cost to the taxpayer, and includes a new train station which will be used for little more thant twentytwo matches per year. Other propoals for a revamped stadium on its present site in Subiaco were rejected by the Barnett Government, which has thus removed business from the many bars, hotels and restaurants in Subiaco and handed over a whole lot of clients to Packer’s casino.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Interesting Lizzy….very interesting.

  23. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    When Labor wins WA, perhaps that can be reversed?

  24. Matters Not

    When Labor wins WA, perhaps that can be reversed?

    Certainly, one can entertain that possibility but the overwhelming odds are that it won’t be. Look above!

    Packer is only dealing with a ‘democracy’ here in Australia so he knows he’s on a winner. Bought so easily. Look at the historical records. In China, it’s much more difficult because they make no such claims.

  25. Kyran

    Oh dear.
    “Israeli police want to question Australian billionaire James Packer in connection with a corruption probe into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, local media has reported.

    The Australian Federal Police said they were aware of the Israeli media reports concerning Mr Packer.

    The ABC understands that Israeli police have been in contact with the AFP in regards to the corruption investigation against Mr Netanyahu.

    The AFP told the ABC they did not discuss assistance requests from other countries, but that the agency “works closely with its international counterparts to investigate and prosecute allegations of corruption”.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-11/james-packer-wanted-for-questioning-by-israeli-police/8346274

    Does the AFP have an ‘open’ file now?
    Thank you Ms Lee, and commenters. Take care

  26. Miriam English

    I bet the AFP quietly close the file again and let Packer off the hook.
    The AFP needs to be investigated for corruption.

  27. Kyran

    My bad, Ms English. I’d forgotten how valuable our ties with Israel are. Didn’t their head honcho meet our head honcho recently?
    “Benjamin Netanyahu has touched down in Sydney for a four-day visit — the first visit to Australia by a serving Israeli Prime Minister.
    He is travelling with a business delegation, and is expected to sign bilateral agreements on technological research and air services.”

    “Security agencies have been preparing for demonstrations against Mr Netanyahu over Israel’s policies on its Palestinian neighbour.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-22/benjamin-netanyahu-arrives-in-sydney/8291846

    “Australian Jews, or Jewish Australians, are Jews who are Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. There are 97,335 Australians who identified as Jewish in the 2011 census. Jewish citizens make up 0.3 percent of the Australian population.”

    Current estimates are that Australian Jews now comprise 0.5% of the population. You can wait for the 2016 census stats, but my guess is that they won’t be available until two years after the next census. Apparently the ABS/IBM partnership ain’t that good.
    Yeah, OK, their head honcho is the subject of the investigation. Yeah, OK, Wentworth (our head honcho’s seat) has the highest content of Jewish voters (at 12.5%). Yeah, OK, our head honcho is scared of his own shadow at the moment and will not want to upset anyone.

    The reality is that the AFP security detail for the allegedly corrupt one would have had direct dealings with Mossad, being the providers of security for the allegedly corrupt one. It’s not like those agencies would conspire to thwart an investigation of their head honcho’s, is it?

    Perhaps you could help me with a geography question. Is Vaucluse in the seat of Wentworth? Didn’t Packer sell ‘La Mer’ to a doctor from China for $70mill?
    Nah, you’re right. Nothing to see here. Close the file.
    Take care

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