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Crown’s Former Boss Felstead Rejects WA Royal Commission Findings

Barry Felstead, a former chief executive officer of Crown Resorts, rejected intermediary findings of the Perth Royal Commission that, according to his barrister, could lead to prosecution, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Rejecting Findings Leading to Prosecution

The former boss of Crown Resorts from 2013-2020 Barry Felstead, via his barrister Joanne Shepard, addressed the commissioners, rejecting seven of its preliminary findings that were only sent to the parties of the inquiry and not made public.

The Perth Royal Commission is yet to reach any final views on the WA inquiry, its head commissioner Neville Owen said on Tuesday before the closings, stating the final report would be handed to the government by the March 4 deadline.

Felstead, who was in charge of the business when 19 Crown employees were arrested in China for illegally promoting in 2016, and was already questioned in front of Western Australia’s commissioners, could face a fine of up to AU$5,000 ($3,550), a year in jail or both if further prosecuted and found in breach of state law.

Sheppard told commissioners her client disputed seven of those findings, which, if remain the way they are at the moment, could lead to prosecutions under the federal Corporations Act for breaches of director duties. Felstead could also be prosecuted for knowingly or recklessly providing misinformation to the regulator under the WA Gaming and Wagering Commission Act.

Genuine Belief in Crown’s Measures

One of those findings stated that Felstead had been aware that the company had disregarded the welfare of its China-based employees and exposed them to the risk of being detained, and Shepard argued that Felstead never admitted to having been aware of that.

“At the relevant times, he had always thought Crown had put in place measures to safeguard staff. The fact that in hindsight, these safeguards proved to be inadequate and Mr Felstead’s trust in them was misplaced, does not mean that Mr Felstead’s belief was not genuine.”

Barrister Joanne Shepard

‘Assertion and Indirect Inference’

The second finding Shepard focused on was that Felstead had misled the Gaming and Wagering Commission regarding a Crown presentation in August 2017 where he was not present, arguing that the finding was due to Crown’s carelessly-made statements that the arrest in China was unexpected.

“There’s a reference then to what Mr Felstead would have known and that either his knowledge was not effectively conveyed or inadequate inquiries had been made. Counsel assisting does not indicate how Mr Felstead may have been careless and no careless act or omission arises from the evidence.”

Barrister Joanne Shepard

As Felstead was never questioned by the commission about the meeting and with no evidence to suggest his contribution to the presentation had been sought by anyone at Crown, Shepard concluded what the commission had based its finding was “nothing more than assertion and indirect inference.”

The inquiry in New South Wales (NSW) had already concluded Felstead had been operating the VIP business isolated from the rest of the business, resulting in tragic events.

The inquiry could not conclusively determine whether Crown had known its staff in China had been operating in breach of the law but concluded the pressure for more sales exerted on China-based employees had been bordering with reckless disregard to the staff wellbeing.

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