Gaming and Racing Minister David Harris has moved quickly to assuage concerns over the state’s Liquor and Gaming body was ill-equipped to combat money laundering in NSW.
This follows a tranche of documents released to parliament on Friday which suggested clubs had been forewarned of compliance checks by Liquor and Gaming NSW, and raised concerns that reduced resourcing would affect the regulator’s ability to investigate money laundering.
Sydney MP Alex Greenwich made the call for papers after he received a tip off that documents related to a NSW Crime Commission investigation, Project Islington, into money laundering was not provided to the commission.
The request uncovered 125 documents which weren’t provided to the original investigation, but should have been.
“It is deeply concerning that Liquor and Gaming did not provide the Crime Commissioner with key documents during Project Islington and then sought to limit those same documents from this call for papers,” Mr Greenwich said on Tuesday.
A order for papers refers to a parliamentary power which allows an MP to obtain papers from government bodies, and is granted as long as it serves the public’s interest.
On Saturday, Mr Greenwich said his confidence into the government regulator had been reduced.
“The Minister needs to urgently review the role of Liquor and Gaming NSW and identify changes that ensure the regulator is investigating money laundering – right now in New South Wales there is a massive void that is supporting organised crime,” he said.
He also called on the recently established Taskforce Magnus, launched after a spate of shooting connected to Sydney’s gangland activity, to look into how poker machines may aid criminals to launder proceeds of crime.
By Saturday afternoon, a statement from Mr Harris’ office reiterated that the Minns government was “committed to gambling reform to reduce harm and tackle money laundering,” and said it supported Mr Greenwich’s call for papers.
“The papers highlight the importance of Project Islington in shining a spotlight on money laundering and enacting important and necessary change,” he said.
The statement also spoke of the government’s independent expert panel tasked with creating a gaming reform road map, which includes NSW’s cashless gaming trial of 500 machines.
Mr Harris said the Minns government had also increased compliance officers and investigators through a redesign of the regulator’s Hospitality and Racing organisational structure.
“Liquor and Gaming NSW continues to work closely with and cooperatively with the NSW Crime Commission and other law enforcement agencies to combat money laundering and criminal activity in NSW,” the statement read.
The final Project Islington report found poker machines were used by criminal to clean money which were the proceeds of crime, however a lack of traceability made it difficult to identify or prosecute potential offenders.
The inquiry also made a list of recommendations, including the use of mandatory cashless gaming cards and the creation of a framework to improve data collection to flag incidents of suspected money laundering.