Melco Resorts Chairman and CEO Lawrence Ho and Crown Resorts’ largest shareholder James Packer are both set to appear at a NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority inquiry into whether Melco is suitable to acquire a significant stake in its former Macau partner.
Ho and Packer were both called upon as witnesses on the opening day of the public inquiry on Tuesday as authorities probe details of a May 2019 agreement for Melco to acquire a 19.99% stake in Crown for AU$1.76 billion (HK$9.58 billion).
The inquiry will look into any business links between Ho and his elderly father Stanley Ho – renowned as one of the founders of Macau’s casino industry. It will also investigate Crown’s relationship with Asian junket operators amid alleged links Asian criminal syndicates raised by Australian media outlets last year.
Crown, operator of Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth, is currently developing the AU$2.2 billion Crown Sydney – a high-end casino, hotel, residential and retail tower overlooking Sydney Harbour.
The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority announced the inquiry last August, stating at the time that it had contacted “relevant Crown parties and other parties” compulsorily seeking documents and information to assist in its investigations and be used in the inquiry.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin revealed on Tuesday that 35 summons had been issued and 58,000 documents received in relation to the inquiry, which will resume on 24 February 2020.
In response to alleged business links with his father, Ho has previously stated, “Both Crown and I have always stressed that my business dealings are independent of my father’s interests. We have already been in partnership with Crown for 12 years and have passed probity screens from regulators without an issue.”
Crown has also repeatedly refuted allegations raised in a high-profile joint investigation by 60 Minutes, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, with Counsel assisting Naomi Sharp SC reiterating to the inquiry on Tuesday that Crown allegations of money laundering and other claims were “outright falsehoods.”