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NSW Money Laundering Investigation Delayed by Gambling Watchdog

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The New South Wales Crime Commission’s (NSW Crime Commission) inquiry faced delays last year when it did not receive vital documents from the state gambling regulator. These papers, connected to people suspected of laundering money through poker machines, were eventually found after a parliamentary request.

Failure to Provide Crucial Documents

Independent MP Alex Greenwich initiated the call for the documents after receiving a tip that the inquiry, codenamed Project Islington, may have underestimated how poker machines were utilized to launder illicit funds in pubs and clubs.

In response to the request, Liquor and Gaming NSW identified 8497 relevant documents. The Crime Commission then reviewed these before releasing them to parliament, ensuring no breach of confidentiality. They identified 125 potentially relevant documents, but Liquor and Gaming argued that 38 of them were out of the order’s scope.

Letters presented in parliament on Tuesday 1 August reveal that Crime Commissioner Michael Barnes personally stepped in to guarantee the release of all 125 documents.

He wrote to Andrew Saras, the department’s legal director, stating:

The 38 documents identified relate to profiles of persons of interest which I understand were authored in early 2022 (during the period of the inquiry) and were marked for dissemination to the Crime Commission. I consider that given these two facts, they do indeed relate to the Crime Commission’s inquiry, even if they were brought into existence as part of another investigatory project.

Michael BarnesNSW Crime Commissioner

Usage of New Documents and Commission’s Stance

The NSW Crime Commission has already employed used documents, which will be released to parliament on Friday, to conduct additional investigations into newly identified persons of interest. Despite the new information, the commission maintains that poker machines are more commonly used to play with the proceeds of crime rather than to launder dirty cash.

The data collected by clubs and pubs don’t show the source of funds, making it difficult to identify money laundering. The commission’s re-review of the documents emphasized the data’s limitations. Barnes stressed that the government and industry need to enhance their data collection and analysis methods, suggesting mandatory cashless gaming as a solution.

The NSW government has appointed an expert panel to supervise a 12-month trial of cashless gaming in pubs and clubs, which will report next November.

Greenwich expressed concern that Liquor and Gaming failed to provide essential documents during Project Islington. He highlighted the need for urgent recommendations to combat and investigate the proceeds of crime funneled into the state’s 90,000 poker machines.

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