Jenny Jiang will live forever with the fallout of the four weeks she spent in a Chinese prison with drug dealers, pickpockets and prostitutes thanks to the actions of her employer – Australia’s biggest casino company, Crown Resorts.
Ms Jiang, who lives in Shanghai, now has a criminal record which she says in China is “a big issue”.
She is the first employee of James Packer’s Crown Resorts to break ranks and talk about what happened to her and her colleagues in October, 2016.
She claims that after setting up offices across mainland China in 2010, Crown started to give huge incentives to its staff to break Chinese law and then abandoned them as authorities closed in.
Her claims about incentives are backed up in Chinese court documents, which describe how Crown’s sales staff “obtained their respective incomes” as “commissions” to be paid out when their high-roller customers reached “appraisal targets” by gambling billions of dollars.
Her revelations are also significant because they raise fresh questions about the fitness of Crown to hold gaming licences, and cast doubt over the corporate governance practices within the gaming company.
Ms Jiang, along with 18 colleagues, was arrested on October 13 and 14, 2016. They were held in custody and then convicted of breaching mainland Chinese laws that ban gambling and its promotion. This includes the luring of groups of high rollers to offshore casinos.
She also believes Crown’s promise to bring revenue to the Australian government via its gaming operations led to the rubber stamping of visas for hundreds of Chinese nationals – vouched for by Crown – because they promised to gamble tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on single trips to its casinos in Melbourne or Perth. She said Australian consulate offices in China helped Crown get fast-tracked visas, and rubber stamped some applications.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said all visa applications were assessed against the law. “Our offices in China are well aware of the risks … and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly,” the spokesperson said, and the Department had “no evidence” of conditions being waived for Crown.
Ms Jiang told a joint Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes investigation that, when the arrests happened, Crown regarded its staff like a “used napkin you throw in the trash can”.
“Money is way more important than the staff,” she said.
She refused a $60,000 payment offer from Crown, which included a condition that she stay quiet. She is taking a significant risk in breaking her silence to tell the story of a police crackdown still cloaked in secrecy.
Ms Jiang’s exclusive interview — to be aired on 60 Minutes on Sunday — comes amid separate revelations that Crown worked with tour operators backed by international organised crime syndicates, including a triad-controlled drug trafficking group.
In a statement, Crown Resorts said that it could not comment on specific allegations, though it denied any breach of China law and had not been charged with an offence in China. Crown “refutes any suggestion that it knowingly exposed its staff to the risk of detention in China”.
Law firm Maurice Blackburn has lodged a class action against Crown after its share price plunged when the Crown employees were detained. Crown is defending the action, which alleges the company knew or should have known about the risks.
On its relationships with junket operators and individuals, Crown’s statement said “Crown does not comment on its business operations with particular individuals or businesses”. However, it has a comprehensive” anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program in place, “which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC,” the statement said.
A lawyer for the casino’s firm’s most prominent shareholder, James Packer, said Mr Packer “adamantly” insisted that he had “no … knowledge” of the company’s conduct in China that led to the prosecution of the company’s employees.
He has not been an executive at the company since 2012 and resigned as chairman of Crown Resorts in August, 2015, and as a board member in December that year. He had a “passive role” at Crown, according to the lawyer’s letter.
Mr Packer issued a statement at the time of the arrests saying he was “deeply concerned” for the workers’ welfare.
But Ms Jiang has accused Crown of not only disregarding Chinese law but also the welfare of its Chinese employees as senior managers offered sales staff huge bonuses to lure Chinese high-rollers to gamble at Crown’s Australian casinos.
Multiple internal sources said the biggest VIP gamblers were offered help securing immigration to Australia, their children’s schooling in Australia and property investments in Melbourne and Sydney.
She said this illegal behaviour was at the centre of Crown’s Chinese operation, which she helped administer between 2011 and 2017.
“High management kept pushing every sales [staff member] to meet more customers, get more business,” recalls Jiang.
Staff who didn’t perform were sacked, according to Ms Jiang. And ultimately, when Chinese law enforcement caught up with them, they were detained, charged and convicted.
Ms Jiang said that even as it became likely Chinese police were closing in, Crown directed its Chinese sales staff to keep promoting gambling, but to do so “under the radar” and to refuse to assist police in the event they were raided.
Multiple sources have also confirmed that prior to the arrests, Crown told its Chinese staff to falsely claim to Chinese authorities they were not working for Crown in China but were working in other locations.
Crown has maintained it worked closely with Australian officials to free its employees.
By Nick McKenzie, investigative reporter for The Age
and Nick Toscano, business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald