War Criminal Gambled $6m at Crown Casinos While Banned from Travel

  • Joseph Wong Kiia Tai provided weapons to Liberian warlord Charles Taylor
  • UN placed Wong on financial and travel sanctions, he still entered Australia
  • Crown already under the microscope for alleged money laundering
Crown logo outside of Crown Melbourne casino
An Indonesian businessman, who was under a UN travel ban for war crimes, gambled and lost $6 million at Crown Casinos in Australia. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Arms dealer supplied Liberian warlord

Australia’s Crown Resorts Limited is under fire for allowing a businessman under financial and travel sanctions by the United Nations to gamble millions of dollars at its casinos.

According to a report by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, Joseph Wong Kiia Tai gambled and lost more than AUD $6,000,000 (USD $4,112,700) between 2010 and 2018 at Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth.

convicted in 2012 on eleven counts of war crimes for “aiding and abetting” rebels who committed atrocities

Wong, the top man at Oriental Timber Company, was placed on the UN Security Council sanctions blacklist in 2004 for supplying millions of dollars in weapons to former Liberian president Charles Taylor.

Taylor was convicted in 2012 on eleven counts of war crimes for “aiding and abetting” rebels who committed atrocities such as murder and rape during an eleven-year civil war in Sierra Leone.

Wong’s blacklisting, viewable via a quick internet search, was lifted in 2015.

Wong entered Australia despite travel ban

The Australian federal government endorsed the Security Council’s sanctions in 2006. Wong should not have been able to enter Australia. The Age and The Herald found, though, that he visited the country on multiple occasions as part of an Indonesian junket funded by Crown.

A casino junket is a trip offered to VIP customers to get them to play at a casino. The casino pays for some or all of the travel, lodging, and other expenses of the customers. There are typically gambling time and stakes requirements put on the customers.

In the case of Wong, an extreme high roller (or “whale”), Crown likely would have showered him with gifts and given him generous concessions to get him to stay at their casinos.

The newspapers reported that to attract whales like Wong, Crown did not implement the required customer screening.

Three gambling trips while barred from country

Wong reportedly took two trips to Crown casinos while the UN sanctions were in place. The first was to Crown Perth in Burswood in August 2010. He traveled by private jet and gambled in the casino’s high-roller room. No win-loss figures were reported.

The second excursion was to Crown Melbourne in late 2013. There he lost more than AUD $4,000,000 (USD $2,741,800) in the high-roller Mahogany Room.

Australian Department of Home Affairs had banned Wong from the country that year for character reasons

In 2018, Wong went back to Crown Melbourne and lost AUD $2,000,000 (USD $1,370,900). The UN sanctions had been lifted by then, but the Australian Department of Home Affairs had banned Wong from the country that year for character reasons.

Crown could face criminal charges for allowing someone on the Security Council’s blacklist to gamble at its casinos.

Crown already accused of money laundering

This is the second time in a week that Crown has been fingered for potentially illegal dealings. Three Victorian state gambling inspectors leaked security camera footage from the Suncity junket room at Crown Melbourne that shows people exchanging hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for casino chips.

The whistleblowers believe the casino is a willing party to a money laundering scheme.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who released the video footage to the public, is working with the whistleblowers. He opined that such “shocking crimes” could only happen if the casino was confident that it had political protection and that regulatory and law enforcement bodies were dropping the ball.

Wilkie said that they are looking at a “multinational, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency” problem. He has repeatedly called for a commission to be created to investigate the possible crimes.