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James Packer caught up in Asian casino raid

Yahoo!7 Finance

James Packer-backed Melco Crown Entertainment is under investigation over alleged illegal transfers of $170 million in gambling funds between Taiwan and Macau.

According to reports in Fairfax and BRW, Taiwanese authorities are investigating whether MCE International, a subsidiary of Packer’s Asian joint venture Melco Crown Entertainment, improperly channelled funds on behalf of gamblers.

Related: Packer's billion-dollar Barangaroo gamble

Prosecutors allege nearly $170 million has been illegally transferred over three years, while an application to freeze the company's local bank accounts is pending, Taiwanese media reports.

Two employees of MCE International have been questioned and later released by authorities in Taiwan. Other Macau casino operators are also believed to be facing probe.

Taiwanese media reports the alleged transfers over three years - on behalf of some 100 gamblers - are suspected of breaching the country’s banking laws.

Related: Crown wants 'world's best hotel' for Sydney

In Taiwan, only registered banks are allowed to engage in international currency exchange and transfer services.

While this news is not being seen as detrimental to Crown shares, the timing could be crucial for Packer who is trying to woo the NSW government to build a second casino at Barangaroo.

Crown is also currently undergoing a review of its casino licence in Victoria which expires in 2033.
Mr Packer's Crown Ltd holds a one-third ownership stake in MCE.