BC Government Launches Money Laundering Public Inquiry

British Columbia officials are frustrated with the casino money laundering situation involving gambling venues in the territory. They have now signalled their intention to get to the bottom of the situation. Premier John Horgan has decided more should be done. Members of the New Democrat government agree.

Last week, they subsequently discussed it at a cabinet meeting. The result was an immediate announcement that they will launch a public inquiry into money laundering.

The scope of the inquiry will include gambling, financial institutions, and real estate. It will also be an exhaustive study into the regulatory measures currently in place. The goal is to determine how regulations can be improved, how law enforcement can be boosted, and how more barriers can be put into place to stop the rampant money laundering still happening.

Latest Casino Money Laundering Revelations

The news of the inquiry came just weeks after the latest revelation about money laundering through a Great Canadian Gaming establishment in Richmond.

The former casino supervisor named Muriel Labine detailed her documented insights into money laundering that dated back to 1997. Much of the noticeable activity began when betting limits were raised and baccarat was introduced to the casino floor, in addition to longer casino hours. She began to document the various Asian groups of men laundering money, as well as the casinos responses to it.

Current Great Canadian Gaming management declined to comment on the allegations. However, a former company VP did back up some of Labine’s claims. Even so, he denied turning his back on any activities that would have put employees in danger. He further denied any personal associations with the alleged criminals.

Report Due in 18 Months

The inquiry will begin right away, as instructed by Premier Horgan and cabinet members.

Heading the inquiry is BC Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen. He will have the authority to demand witness testimony and the revelation of any pertinent information. His background as a Crown prosecutor in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, as well as his stint as the Assistant Deputy Attorney General, give many confidence that he has the tools to do the job well.

Cullen will now be able to apply for court orders to enter private property, seize records and property if necessary. As well as hold any uncooperative persons in contempt of court.

Horgan noted, “We are not constraining the commissioner in any way. This is about making sure there is accountability.”

The first report will be due in late 2020, but the final analysis will be due by May 2021.

Support All Around

According to the Vancouver Sun, there was quite a bit of support for the inquiry.

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart was one of those endorsing the research. So too was the entire BC Green party and the federal Conservatives caucus. Even the BC Liberals expressed support, though they have not yet decided if they will agree to make all pertinent documents public. The BC Government Employees Union and New Car Dealers Association both expressed support and cooperation.

Even higher in the federal government, MP Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, supported the inquiry, as did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both said they would cooperate in any way they could be of assistance.

Blair released a statement, noting that “our government will cooperate with the province of British Columbia and continue to work collaboratively … on intelligence gathering and information sharing.”

Most Comprehensive Casino Money Laundering Report

There have been reports in past years about money laundering, but they were not exhaustive.  Cullen, on the other hand, will have more extensive authority and a broader scope.

Liberal MLA Rich Coleman, in speaking with the media after the inquiry announcement, was mostly happy with move. He believes it will clear his government from allegations that they didn’t do enough to combat money laundering when they were in power. He noted that the new inquiry “will finally get past some of this innuendo and accusation.” He added, “Let’s get down to some facts.”

And that appears to be just what Horgan intends to do.

“We have an obligation to British Columbians to get to the bottom of this,” Horgan said. He added that money laundering hurts the lives of people in the community, causes home prices to soar beyond what average British Columbians can afford, and creates a criminal element that is dangerous.

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell

Jennifer Newell has been writing about poker and gambling since 2004. From her days in the WPT offices to covering summers of WSOP tournament action, she also followed gambling legislation to Washington D.C. and women-only poker to the Bahamas. Meanwhile, she lived in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for many years before moving back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Now, Jen travels less, writing about poker and online gambling from her home with her two dogs watching her every move. In her spare time, she follows politics, works on her never-finished novels, and learns Italian in the hopes of retiring to Italy someday.

If you want to know more, you can follow Jen on Twitter @WriterJen


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