Billionaire James Packer agrees he engaged in shameful and disgraceful conduct by threatening a businessman over a proposal to privatise Crown Resorts, but blames bipolar disorder for his actions.
The 53-year-old on Tuesday was beamed into a Sydney-based casino inquiry by video-link from his luxury yacht moored in the South Pacific. He was compelled to appear.
The identity of the businessman on the receiving end of Mr Packer's threats was not revealed, referred to only as 'Mr X'.
Mr Packer agreed he had discussions with the man about possibly privatising Crown Resorts in 2015.
Mr Packer's legal team successfully fought for the exact content of a bundle of emails containing the communications with Mr X to be kept confidential, due to Mr Packer's mental state at the time.
The billionaire agreed he was "verbally" threatening Mr X in the emails, and accepted that the conduct was "shameful" and "disgraceful", despite then being a director of Crown Resorts with an obligation to act ethically and with integrity.
"At the time of these emails, Mr Packer, you understood that you had an obligation not to engage in conduct likely to bring discredit onto Crown Resorts, didn't you?" counsel assisting the inquiry Adam Bell SC asked the casino mogul.
"I'd clearly forgotten that," Mr Packer responded.
Asked how the casino regulator could have confidence in Mr Packer's character or integrity in light of his conduct in the emails, Mr Packer said he was sick at the time and is being treated for bipolar.
"You accept that your conduct in these emails reflects adversely on your character, don't you?" Mr Bell asked.
"My medical state is what it reflected most on," Mr Packer said.
The billionaire earlier told the inquiry he resigned as chairman of Crown Resorts in December 2015 because he "wasn't well".
Mr Packer agreed an Australian Stock Exchange media release from December 2015 announcing his resignation should have mentioned the health problems which drove him to resign, but said he hoped it would "stay a private matter".
In a written statement submitted in late September, Mr Packer said strong medication he was prescribed since 2016 to treat "significant health issues" affected his ability to recall past events.
Mr Packer admitted that the operation of an unofficial Crown office in China represented a "significant failure" in compliance.
The NSW gaming regulator is holding an inquiry to determine the suitability of Crown to operate a new casino at Sydney's Barangaroo.
Mr Packer resigned as director of the Crown board in December 2015 and again in 2018 after rejoining the board in 2017, but remains a majority shareholder. He is expected to face questions about his knowledge of a share sale to casino company Melco Resorts.
The NSW government was concerned that Stanley Ho, a billionaire with alleged links to organised crime, would gain an interest in a casino in the state. Dr Ho's son Lawrence Ho controls Melco Resorts.
The inquiry commissioner, former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin, will make recommendations about whether the sale meant Crown breached its casino licence by allowing unsuitable parties to become close associates of the company.
The inquiry has been told the deal to sell 19.99 per cent of Crown stock from private company CPH Crown Holdings to Melco happened on Mr Packer's urging, despite his earlier resignation from the board.
The inquiry has also canvassed Crown's measures to prevent its casinos being used for money laundering and its relationship with Chinese junket operators.
Mr Packer is due to continue giving evidence on Wednesday.
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