According to an internal audit obtained by Postmedia News through freedom of information requests, River Rock Casino in Richmond accepted millions in $20 bills in July 2015. Many of these large transactions were given to VIP gamblers by third-parties, who were denied access to British Columbia’s casinos due to Canada’s anti-money laundering restrictions. The report says that the casino workers allowed high-rollers to buy casino chips with money from wealthy third-parties, who were subjects of a criminal investigation conducted by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The audit reveals that these third-parties were people or businessmen with interest in Vancouver and China and they were using underground banking networks to circumvent China’s strict anti-money-laundering measures. According to the audit, the organized criminals were using illegal cash house to lend dirty money to VIP gamblers, who were using B.C. casinos as a laundry channel.
For many people gambling is a pastime, but for others, it is a way to wash their hands of the illicit activities, which they are dealing with. In September this year, the newly-elected British Columbia government put on the table a year-old casino report, which signals about irregularities in cash transactions at River Rock Casino. The report attracted the attention of Canada’s financial watchdog, which launched casino money laundering investigation.
The concerns that wealthy Chinese gamblers might be using British Columbia casino industry to launder millions of dirty money might prove to be reasonable. According to a confidential report, the casino employees accepted large bulk cash transactions, which involved unsourced cash. The casino report revealed that around $13.5 million in $20 bills were accepted at Richmond’s casino in 2015. Some time ago, the police have warned that the $20 bills are one of the most used bills by drug dealers. The audit found out that the high-stakes players referred to in the document as “proxy” gamblers, were placing bets on behalf of third-parties, who actually provided the money. They, on the other hand, were not allowed to enter the casino floor due to British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) crackdown on money laundering.
In 2016, gambling auditors investigated 47 VIP players, who were allowed to buy casino chips providing that they show a document from a bank verifying the money withdrawal. Despite the restriction, 14 players of these people were playing in the casino. According to the report, these people should have obtained the chips either from another player in the casino or from the outside.
Collecting Pieces of the Puzzle
It is interesting to note that British Columbian casinos have provoked the interest of Chinese VIP gamblers for long enough. Auditors elaborated that Richmond’s casino was the most favored by the wrongdoers as it offered to its regular customers to buy chips with bills of small value and be paid with big-denomination bills. This is a golden opportunity for the wrongdoers, who want to launder their illicit cash. The criminals used an underground cash house, which borrowed dirty money to VIP gamblers from Macau. Even though Chinese nationals are only allowed a foreign currency exchange of maximum US$50,000 annually, there are no restrictions regarding the amount of money, which will enter Canada as long as the transactions are registered.