The former Howard-era Liberal Senator told the New South Wales gaming inquiry the major casino chain failed to implement adequate risk measures regarding the junkets, which lured VIP players to its gaming venues.
The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) probe into Crown will see if the casino giant is fit to keep its Sydney gaming licence for its multi-billion dollar Barangaroo project, following accusations the casino failed to prevent money laundering through junket operators it was partnered with.
When questioned by the inquiry, Ms Coonan agreed the large use of junket operators to recruit high roller Chinese customers introduced an elevated risk of tainted funds entering either its Melbourne or Perth venues.
Ms Coonan said links between junkets and organised crime syndicates had been general knowledge since she had been a director of Crown, admitting prior checks at the casino could have been increased to ensure it wasn’t facilitating illegal activity.
“I think we can do better as we have alluded to in the course of these proceedings,” she said.
“In particular … one of the deficiencies is in respect of not casting the net wide enough to people associated with junkets, affiliates and the like.”
The same inquiry has grilled billionaire James Packer and other major stakeholders in Crown over their respective knowledge of the group’s China dealings, and also the botched sale of Mr Packer’s stake in the company to Macau-based Melco Resorts.
It has previously been revealed one of Melco’s major stakeholders, Stanley Ho, was banned by the NSW government from having any investment in Crown.
Ms Coonan also said the long-term mental conditions of Mr Packer were only first revealed to her on October 6, when he gave evidence to the same inquiry.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin asked Ms Coonan if the company would conduct a review of the management failure that led to 19 of its staff being arrested in China in 2015.
Ms Coonan said there was no intention at this stage to initiate a sweeping review, while other legal matters such as a current shareholder class action are facing the company.
The staff were arrested in China after authorities were informed the casino was allegedly attempting to organise gambling tours to Australia — which under Chinese law is illegal.
The Chinese government has previously announced a crackdown on foreign casinos attempting to recruit Chinese citizens for overseas gambling holidays.
Ms Coonan said the board was not properly informed of the situation in China at the time, with the issue not properly escalated through the casino’s risk management procedures.
The inquiry also heard Crown actively reduced its visibility in mainland China by removing logos on private jets that were used to transport VIP clients to its gaming venues.
“There are lessons to be learned and I accept that,” Ms Coonan said.