Mr Bell said Melco Resorts boss Lawrence Ho – son of Macau casino tycoon Stanley, who is banned from involvement in Crown – and other Melco executives would also be called.
Being called to give evidence will see Mr Packer return to Sydney after he made a quick visit earlier this month to inspect the $2.4 billion Crown Resorts site at Barangaroo.
He reportedly fears the attention he receives in his home country, as one of Australia’s wealthiest and most famous individuals.
In an opening submission on Tuesday, counsel assisting Adam Bell, SC, laid out the corporate web behind Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts, and said the inquiry should consider which of these entities became “close associates” or gained a relevant interest in Crown when Melco bought into the company.
Mr Bell submitted that one company that acquired an indirect interest was Great Respect Limited – which is on a list of banned associated individuals and companies because of their links to Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho, who has long been accused of having links to organised crime.
Melco is run by Mr Ho’s son, Lawrence.
Crown is also obliged under its licence to notify the NSW gaming regulator if any new party becomes a close associate of the company, and to prevent any major change from happening without the authority’s permission.
“If Great Respect limited did obtain an indirect interest in Crown Resorts or win the licensee as a result of the share sale agreement, a matter for this inquiry to consider is whether it was within the power of Crown Resorts to prevent the execution of the share sale agreement,” Mr Bell said.
“Crown Resort’s position was that it was not informed of the share sale until after it had been executed, and in any event it was not within the power of Crown Resorts to prevent the execution of that agreement.”
Mr Bell said he expected evidence to establish that the sale of Mr Packer’s shares to Melco was negotiated by Guy Jalland, who runs both Mr Packer’s private investment company and is also a director of Crown Resorts.
Melco – which has signalled it wants to take full control of Crown – has already taken ownership of a 10 per cent stake in Crown Resorts. A second 10 per cent tranche was put on hold until the inquiry is completed.
Mr Bell said that Melco wrote to Liquor and Gaming NSW after the May share agreement to have executives including Lawrence Ho approved as “close associates” of Crown, to enable it to further increase its ownership in the company.
However, after the announcement of the ILGA inquiry it withdrew Mr Ho’s request, asking only Melco chief financial officer Geoffrey Davis and brand officer Frederic Winckler to become associates.
The hearings will resume on February 24.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.