BC Money Laundering Inquiry Details Emerge

Money laundering has been a problem in British Columbia for many years. Stories of serious operations in 2017 led to investigations and reports, all of which led lawmakers to try to implement solutions.

The BC public inquiry into money laundering is soon to get underway, and preparations will also include naming those who will participate in the inquiry.

Money Laundering Inquiry Preparations Rev Up

Earlier this year, British Columbia officials became frustrated enough with reports of money laundering through casinos and other entities. Premier John Horgan and members of the New Democrat government discussed the situation and decided to launch a public inquiry.

There were three primary goals in mind:

  • Determine how regulations can be improved
  • Decide how to boost law enforcement efforts
  • Figure out how many barriers can be put into place

Some aspects of the public inquiry began right away.

BC Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen is in charge of the inquiry as its commissioner. His background as a prosecutor and work in the Attorney General’s office were just some of his qualifications.

Cullen’s appointment to lead the inquiry gave him the authority to apply for court orders to enter private property and seize records, demand witness testimony, obtain necessary information, and also hold uncooperative persons in contempt.

Ultimately, the final analysis is not due until May 2021. However, the first report is due in 2020.

Participants Announced

In order to keep the inquiry focused, any organizations and gaming groups – or even individuals with interest – needed to apply to participate in the public inquiry.

The initial 16 approvals were announced at the end of September.

Some applicants were obvious candidates and quickly received standing. These would be the British Columbia Ministry of Finance, the federal government, the Canadian Gaming Association, and the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC). The Law Society of BC and the BC Civil Liberties Association were also approved.

Robert Kroeker is a gaming expert. He served as the chair of the Justice Institute of British Columbia’s Board of Governors, Great Canadian Gaming VP of Corporate Security and Compliance, and BCLC Vice-President. Interestingly, Kroeker has been the center of controversy. This is because of his denials in years past that money laundering could possibly have taken place at River Rock Casino, a Great Canadian property.

Four individual applications will also have public hearings.

Ross Alderson served as Manager of eGaming Investigations and Senior Manager of Risk Advisory Services at BCLC.

Brad Desmarais was the Vice-President of Casino and Community Gaming at BCLC.

James Lightbody is the CEO of BCLC. He believes his knowledge of the lottery organization’s operations and anti-money laundering initiatives will be helpful to the commission.

Finally, Fred Pinnock was the head of BC’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police Unit Commander. He feels that the public has been mostly misled about the scope of money laundering and other possible criminal activities in BC casinos.

Federal Commitment Expected

BC Attorney General David Eby has been an outspoken advocate for fighting money laundering.

In addition to the public inquiry, Eby hoped the federal government would step up to help with financial resources. He believes the issue is a high enough priority that federal officers and forensic accountants would be sent to help with the work.

Money laundering is as much a federal problem as a provincial one, according to Eby.

He also wrote an opinion piece for The Star last month. Eby urged the federal government to apply resources ahead of the start of the public inquiry.

Eby also mentioned that the story of money laundering and transnational crime has spread beyond the Canadian border. American media is covering it. And the World Bank even invited Eby to talk about it.

He also admitted that the federal government did change money laundering laws to make it easier for police to charge money laundering crimes. Even so, Eby acknowledged that funding for federal anti-money laundering went through earlier this year. That money has yet to be get to BC.

“There are things only Ottawa and federal police officers can do,” Eby wrote. “The federal government is responsible for banks, for the anti-money laundering agency FINTRAC, for the RCMP, for international work with governments and police agencies around the world.”

A Commitment Challenge

At the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention a few weeks ago, Eby spoke and showed evidence of the money laundering issues.

Finance Minister Carole James teamed up with Eby to challenge federal election candidates to help in the money laundering fight.

They noted that sharing data across Canada is also key to stemming the problem. It goes beyond the casino sector and into real estate and car sales, banking and other aspects of civil society. In conclusion, to fight it will require everything from taxation law changes to federal funding.


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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