Politics

Ex-cop reveals ‘rollercoaster’ junket gig

A former police officer has revealed to a royal commission the “rollercoaster” experiences he had while working for a prominent junket operator connected to Crown Melbourne.

The man, who cannot be named, on Thursday said his jobs included “pouring green tea” for Tom Zhou, also known as ‘Mr Chinatown’, as well as helping the junket operator get his kids into an exclusive NSW private school.

He also removed a nest of wasps from Mr Zhou’s Toorak home, drove him around in a Rolls-Royce, flew to Sydney to pick up school uniforms, and spoke to a Mosman real estate agent about a $40 million property.

The homicide detective turned private security contractor was paid in cash and worked for Mr Zhou, who brought Chinese high rollers to Australian casinos, for five months in 2016.

This gig was referred to him by Crown Melbourne’s security and surveillance head Craig Walsh, a close and longstanding friend.

He once bragged to Mr Walsh that Mr Zhou’s “Chinatown” junket operation had turned over $10 billion in bets.

Counsel assisting Adrian Finanzio SC asked the ex-cop if Mr Zhou treated him like a “servant” or a “lackey”.

“He tried to,” the man responded.

Mr Finanzio told the inquiry into whether Crown can retain a licence for its Melbourne operations that in a text message the man described his work for Mr Zhou as like a “rollercoaster”.

“There was opportunity, then it was clear things were going nowhere,” the former detective told the inquiry.

“I was summoned at the last minute … and just expected to go to Sydney to get some school uniforms.”

Mr Finanzio said the former detective was in August 2016 sitting on a private jet at Coolangatta airport with Mr Zhou and his associates when it was searched by Australian authorities before taking off to New Zealand for a gambling trip.

“Did that, in combination with the cash payments, pique your suspicion that something might not be right?” Mr Finanzio asked the former officer.

The man said no.

“It’s like a movie,” he told the inquiry.

“These guys are travelling on charter flights, but they’ve got licences to operate and cash is their currency.

“I always thought this bloke (Mr Zhou) is licensed. He operates in the the most surveilled environment in the world.”

The former officer brought $180,000 of cash from that New Zealand trip back to Australia in a suitcase for Mr Zhou.

But he said he wasn’t suspicious of Mr Zhou until the Chinese-Australian man was arrested in 2020.

The ex-detective also revealed he passed on surveillance information gathered by a private investigator about a journalist, Mark Hawthorne, who had been looking into Ishan Ratnam, then Crown’s VIP gaming vice-president, to Mr Walsh.

He said this “wasn’t a Crown thing”, but instead related to cars.

The royal commission was set up by Daniel Andrews’ Labor government after a NSW inquiry found Crown unsuitable to operate its newly built casino in Sydney’s Barangaroo.

It continues on Friday with evidence from Mr Walsh.

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