Casino giant Melco Resorts has won a court battle not to reveal some legally privileged documents at a public inquiry that is investigating its purchase of a 20% stake in Crown Resorts.
In the months to come, the unprecedented inquiry carried out by the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority is set to be faced by Melco in order for the regulatory body to decide whether the gambling operator is suitable to be involved in the operation of Crown’s new casino venue in Sydney.
Now, the Asian casino company will not be forced to produce certain documents to the NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority, as the New South Wales’ Supreme Court found that the above-mentioned probe does not have the power of a royal commission.
The liquor and gambling regulatory body held an inquiry led by Patricia Bergin, a former NSW Supreme Court judge. The probe is set to consider whether any of the provisions included in the casino licence of Crown’s new Sydney casino were breached by the sale of the Australian giant’s stake that is worth AU$1.76 billion. The probe was to have the same powers as a royal commission, including the latter’s prerogative to oblige parties to produce certain documents and give evidence as part of the investigation.
As previously reported by Casino Guardian, under the licence conditions of Crown’s Barangaroo project, the Australian gambling giant was banned from any involvement with the father of Mr Lawrence Ho, Stanley, and a number of individuals and entities related to him due to alleged links to organised crime.
NSW Royal Commission Act Not Applicable for the Probe’s Purposes, Justice Says
Melco Resorts and Entertainment has taken the regulator to court after the watchdog rejected its disagreement with the requirement to provide certain documents that were protected by legal professional privilege. Only a week ago, Melco revealed that it did not intend to proceed with the second part of the acquisition of Crown Resorts’ shares.
Melco took the regulatory body to the NSW Supreme Court a few days ago, challenging its right to compel the gambling company to provide nine documents covered by legal privilege. Earlier today, Justice Christine Adamson, ruled in favour of the Hong Kong company, which basically means that the regulatory body would not be able to access the required documents.
Justice Adamson found that the NSW Royal Commission Act has not been applicable for the purposes of the probe, and the privileges of Melco, including legal professional privilege, are not repealed for the purpose of the inquiry. The legal case that Melco Resorts started was based on a section of the Royal Commission Act under which witnesses are not able to use legal privilege to prevent themselves from giving evidence or producing privileged documents.
Now, the court’s decision could mean that further changes to the direction of the inquiry could be made as far as the inquiry is regarded.