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Aussie Casino Feted Heroin Baron

25 July 2001

MELBOURNE, Australia – July 25, 2001 – As reported by the (South Australia) Advertiser: ``Melbourne's Crown Casino paid a triad boss $2.5 million while he was running an international drug network from suites in its hotel.

``Nearly $500,000 of that was given to heroin dealer and alleged people smuggler Ko Kon Tong in July 1998.

``The money was Crown's way of rewarding Tong for turning over almost $420 million on its baccarat tables.

``Tong's Crown Casino gaming record reveals he funded his massive gambling sprees with chips worth more than $45 million that he paid for with cash and cheques.

``Prosecutor Brent Young alleged in court that Tong was laundering money through the casino.

``He said Tong, eventually arrested in August 1999, and senior gang members Lisa Vuong and Dat Thinh Ong were caught discussing massive heroin deals on listening devices planted in Tong's Crown Towers room.

``…Hong Kong-based Tong, 46, was one of the highest of high-rollers and as such was feted by Crown during the two years he lived and gambled there.

``…But Crown also played a part in Tong's downfall.

``It is legally required to report transactions of $10,000 (US$5,083) and above – and suspicious transactions of any size – to the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre.

``Crown reported Tong's transactions.

``Austrac told the National Crime Authority about Tong's high-living and high-rolling and this prompted detectives from the `Operation Blade' Asian organised crime unit to investigate.

``…Bugged telephones, constant NCA surveillance and listening devices and video recorders hidden in Crown Towers hotel rooms, helped establish that Tong was using the casino as the headquarters of his drug distribution and money-laundering syndicate.

``…The NCA-coordinated blitz on Tong, codenamed Operation Zareba, led to the arrest of Tong, four of his underlings and his Hong Kong-based heroin supplier..."

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