Ex-AFL Boss in Hot Water for Inquiry Notes

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
October 13, 2020Updated: October 13, 2020

Crown Resorts director Andrew Demetriou has been criticised for his use of notes as he gave evidence to an NSW inquiry into the company’s suitability to operate a new Sydney premises.

Demetriou admitted on Oct. 12 to an instance of reading from prepared notes when asked about the role of Crown’s independent directors. His notes were taken and produced into evidence.

On Oct. 13 morning, counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Aspinall, identified numerous similarities between words used by Demetriou in answers given to the inquiry on Oct. 12 and language in the notes.

“Oh Mr Demetriou, why did you do it,” inquiry commissioner Patricia Bergin exclaimed as he was questioned about the notes.

He agreed some of the words used in his answers were the same as those that appeared in the notes but denied reading from them beyond the instance he had already admitted.

“You see how it looks. You’ve got notes that translate into the transcript, that looks like you’ve been prompted by them, doesn’t it?” Bergin asked.

Demetriou on Oct. 12 defended Crown against accusations it turned a blind eye to money laundering, saying he stands by the company’s description of some media reporting as “a deceitful campaign against Crown.”

The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority inquiry is looking at Crown’s fitness to open a casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo, following allegations its current sites have facilitated organised crime and money laundering.

Crown’s deputy chair, former Australian chief medical officer John Horvath, also appeared before the inquiry on Oct. 13.

Under questioning, he said he no longer had confidence in Barry Felstead, who is chief executive of Crown’s Australian resorts business, in light of evidence he had heard.

“I have to say no,” Horvath responded when asked if he still had confidence in Felstead as a senior executive.

The inquiry has heard that Felstead was aware that a Crown staffer had been questioned in China and provided with a letter from the company to “corroborate” what the employee had told Chinese officials. More than a dozen Crown workers were later arrested in China.

Felstead failed to tell managing director Rowen Craigie about the events, but instead told Crown director Michael Johnston, the inquiry has heard. Johnston is an appointee of major shareholder James Packer’s private company Crown Press Holdings.

Horvath admitted the failure of the evidence to make its way to the board as a whole suggested a structural failure of the board and the company.

Johnston’s failure to share the information was “clear failure of judgment” with “very serious consequences”, Horvath conceded, but he said he still had confidence in Johnston as a board director.

Director Antonia Korsanos also gave evidence on Oct. 13, accepting that there had been issues with Crown’s anti-money laundering processes and its response to negative media reporting.

Bergin told Korsanos, a former chief financial officer with gaming company Aristocrat Leisure, that it was “on her mind” that Crown had forced the inquiry to examine management and directors on issues the company could have conceded from the start, such as the use of certain bank accounts for transactions which raised money-laundering red flags.

“I think, Commissioner, with the benefit of hindsight, it would have been appropriate,” Korsanos replied.

The inquiry resumes on Oct. 14 morning, with Horvath returning to the witness box.  

By Hannah Ryan