Report Confirms Large Amount of Money Laundered by B.C. Casinos



An 1,800-page report commissioned by the Province of British Columbia confirmed that large amounts of money were laundered in provincial casinos between 2008 and 2018.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen was appointed to lead the investigation following significant public concerns about money laundering in British Columbia. Cullen and his team took three years, held 138 hearings and reviewed 198 witness reports and 1,000 exhibits before releasing the report Wednesday afternoon.

“I hope today marks a turning point in how governments deal with money laundering in this province,” Cullen said at a press conference. “Sophisticated money launderers have used British Columbia as a clearing house to launder an incredible amount of dirty money. Although we cannot accurately quantify the amount of money laundering taking place, I include in my report that it is a considerable amount.

Main findings

The report states that “in 2014 alone, BC casinos accepted nearly $1.2 billion in cash transactions of $10,000 or more, including 1,881 individual cash redemptions of $100,000 or more, an average of more than five per day”.

Ill-gotten winnings were frequently delivered to casino patrons at or near Lower Mainland casinos late at night by unmarked luxury vehicles. These customers, who the report said were not directly involved in the criminal activity that generated these funds, in some cases held significant wealth in China and acted as cash facilitators by gambling the illicit funds in casinos. . Whether they won or lost, they repaid the cash advance to the criminal organizations in a non-cash form, usually via electronic funds transfers to another jurisdiction to avoid Chinese export restrictions.

“These were often mostly $20 bills, non-uniformly oriented, grouped into “bricks” of specific values ​​(as opposed to number of bills), bound with rubber bands, and carried in shopping bags, purses backpacks, suitcases, gym bags, cardboard boxes and all sorts of other containers,” the report states. “It should have been obvious to anyone aware of the size and character of these transactions that the Lower Mainland casinos were accepting large amounts of proceeds of crime during this period.”

Cullen accused the British Columbia Lottery Corporation and several provincial ministers of failing to act on blatant money laundering, despite warnings from multiple levels of law enforcement.

“BCLC resisted these calls to action and continued to authorize these transactions, almost without exception,” the report said.

However, in 2014, the BCLC reported nearly $200 million in suspicious transactions to FINTRAC, Canada’s national financial intelligence agency. Those suspicious reports included 595 separate transactions worth $100,000 or more, according to the report.

The report also found that the criminals were laundering money through B.C.’s luxury goods and housing markets, though Cullen believes this activity did not impact the price of the property. local real estate. The total amount of illicit funds laundered into the BC economy is estimated to be in the billions of dollars, according to the report.

Cullen’s Recommendations

Cullen concluded that the failures of politicians, government officials and regulators to act on suspicious funds entering the provincial revenue stream were not motivated by corrupt purposes. It also found that law enforcement, primarily the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), showed a lack of priority but had insufficient resources to properly investigate the initial suspicions of money laundering by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) of British Columbia in 2008.

The GPEB identified a significant increase in suspicious cash transactions in casinos around this time, before the size and frequency of such transactions peaked in the mid-2010s.

Cullen made exactly 101 recommendations as part of his report, mostly suggesting that the province appoint a dedicated anti-money laundering commissioner. He also thinks the threshold for players to provide proof of the source of their funds for casino transactions made in cash will be lowered from $10,000 to $3,000.

The province of British Columbia is home to approximately 5 million Canadians and has 34 casinos and community gaming centers.

Photo by Shutterstock.

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