A court in New South Wales (NSW) ruled on Thursday that casino operator Melco Resorts and Entertainment Ltd ought to hand over legally-privileged company documents to a regulatory inquiry in that Australian state regarding the gaming-licence suitability of Crown Resorts Ltd. Melco Resorts is an investor in Crown Resorts, controlling a nearly 10-percent stake in the latter company.
A Supreme Court judge in February had sided with Melco Resorts, saying that the company would not have to produce certain documents to New South Wales’ Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority and its inquiry. But on Thursday, the NSW Court of Appeal overruled that decision, reported the Australian Associated Press.
The appeal court stated that the inquiry had the same kind of powers as an Australian Royal Commission, thus being able to compel the production of legally-privileged documents, said the media outlet.
“The court held that the primary judge erred in concluding that… the Royal Commission Act did not confer a ‘power or authority’ on a commissioner [the judge heading the inquiry], with that section extending the general power to compel the production of documents to include the power to compel the production of legally privileged documents,” stated the appeal court.
Melco Resorts has the right to appeal that ruling to the High Court of Australia. GGRAsia approached Melco Resorts for comment but had not received a reply by the time this story went online.
Crown Resorts runs a gaming complex in Melbourne, Victoria; one in Perth, Western Australia; and is developing a third at Barangaroo in Sydney, New South Wales.
Melco Resorts, a company controlled by gaming entrepreneur Lawrence Ho Yau Lung, announced in May last year that it was paying US$1.2 billion to acquire a 19.99-percent stake in Crown Resorts, in two tranches. Melco Resorts said in February it had decided not to pursue the purchase of a second tranche of shares in the Australian company.
The New South Wales gaming regulator has launched a public inquiry into that deal, as well as to probe whether Crown Resorts breached the terms of its gaming licence for its Barangaroo project.
The inquiry was temporarily halted in late February pending the decision from the NSW Court of Appeal. The inquiry’s head, former judge Patricia Bergin, said at the time that the proceedings were likely to resume in mid-March.
It had been expected that Melco Resorts’ Mr Ho, and James Packer – a Crown Resorts founder and shareholder – would attend the inquiry.
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