Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich has made explosive claims in parliament that the powerful NSW Crime Commission may not have been given complete access to information revealing the true extent of money laundering in pubs and clubs across the state.
In an extraordinary move, the Minns government backed Greenwich’s parliamentary order to force the state’s gaming regulator to release surveillance data and compliance checks, amid concerns that money laundering is more extensive than identified in last year’s report from the NSW Crime Commission.
Labor’s support is a sign that the government would be prepared to take a tougher stance on cashless gaming if the evidence reveals that key information was withheld from the crime commission when it was conducting its inquiry, codenamed Project Islington.
The Project Islington report, released in October, recommended a cashless gaming card for all venues across the state to stop criminals using poker machines to wash dirty money. The inquiry found that billions of dollars gambled through NSW poker machines in the year to June 30, 2021, were the proceeds of organised crime.
The former Coalition government committed to making the state’s 90,000 poker machines cashless by 2028, but Labor instead agreed to a 500-machine trial of machines, starting in July.
Greenwich, one of the key proponents of a cashless gaming card, told parliament on Thursday that he had also been provided with information that suggested that clubs may have been tipped off to compliance checks ahead of time.
Under the parliamentary order, Liquor and Gaming NSW and the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority would be forced to release “emails, including summary data, attachments and Excel spreadsheets” related to all its centralised monitoring system data “on suspicious transactions at single or multiple venues”.
“I have been informed that the NSW Crime Commission inquiry into money laundering via electronic gaming machines may not detail the full extent of money laundering in clubs, and that NSW Liquor and Gaming holds significant information and data based on analysis of centralised monitoring system or CMS data and associated investigations,” Greenwich told parliament.
“It is not clear to what extent that data was incorporated in the crime commission report and the house needs to know whether the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority has other information, details, analysis, and advice. The house needs to understand what information there is and why it may have not been used by the crime commission.”
The government’s leader of the house Ron Hoenig said he and Premier Chris Minns had been privately working with Greenwich for several weeks to devise the best way to seek the information.
Hoenig said it was a “rare exception” for the lower house to support a parliamentary order for the release of documents, but the move was related to “matters of grave concern”, while shadow attorney-general Alister Henskens said the Coalition was also prepared to support Greenwich’s parliamentary order given the severity of the matter.
“It is undoubtedly the case that this is not in any sense a frivolous exercise,” Henskens said.
A spokesman for Liquor and Gaming NSW said the agency worked closely with the crime commission throughout the 10-month inquiry.
“Our investigative staff performed vital supporting work such as data analysis, evidence gathering and intelligence activities. All relevant information collected as part of this work was provided to the inquiry, or referred to other agencies such as AUSTRAC,” the spokesman said.
The spokesman said the agency was “not aware of any cases of venues being given prior warning of our investigative work related to Project Islington”.
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