(Bloomberg) —



James Packer wearing a suit and tie


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James Packer

Crown Resorts Ltd.’s billionaire shareholder James Packer pushed for a tie-up last year between Australia’s biggest casino operator and Hong Kong-based Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd.

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This was despite prohibitions levied by an Australian regulator against associates of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho — whose son Lawrence is Melco’s CEO — from owning a stake in Crown.

Packer on Wednesday said that he had “forgotten” about the conditions on Crown’s license to operate a casino in Sydney. Pressed further, Packer conceded it was probable that his mind didn’t turn to the prohibition.

The acknowledgment came during Packer’s second day of testimony in a probe of alleged money-laundering activities at Crown. Among other issues, the inquiry is assessing whether Crown’s Melco links breached terms of its license to operate a casino in Sydney.

Packer and Lawrence Ho briefly considered a full merger between their two companies in April 2019, before agreeing on Melco buying a 20% stake in Crown from Packer’s private investment company, said the Australian billionaire on Thursday. Melco scrapped the investment deal earlier this year, citing the impact of the coronavirus, though the transaction was already in doubt after it was sucked into the regulatory probe.

Stanley Ho, who faced allegations of being connected to organized crime, died in May. Dozens of entities and individuals deemed associates of his were barred by the New South Wales casino regulator from owning an interest in Crown, directly or indirectly.

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Packer’s testimony, which continues on Thursday, forms part of a probe being overseen by retired Supreme Court Judge Patricia Bergin that was set up last year following media reports gangs laundered money at Crown’s casinos, and the company used junket operators with links to