There has been a sharp decline in the suspicious transactions seen across British Columbia casinos, attorney general David Eby said Tuesday. It appears the anti-money laundering measures taken by the province in January already give results, as the potentially crime-related transactions have decreased from CA$20 million in July 2015 to $200,000 in February.
David Eby spoke before the House of Commons finance committee on Tuesday and focused on the huge rates of financial crime and money laundering, in particular. According to him, casinos in British Columbia have been used for laundering cash generated from criminal activity. A large amount of “suspicious” transactions to and from the casinos can be considered an indication for this. Peak figures were reported in July 2015 when these transfers amounted $20 million, while later, there were transactions of around $5 million each month.
He admitted that not all suspicious transactions are the proceeds of crime, but the source of money in them have not been clearly identified. In January this year, there was a drop in these unexplained transfers and they were worth around $200,000, said Eby at the meeting with the federal committee. This decline comes after introducing several changes in January based on recommendations made by lawyer and former deputy commissioner at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Peter German. Last year, German was appointed by Eby to lead an investigation into money laundering practices in British Columbia Casinos.
One of the most significant measures taken this January was restricting VIP players from buying chips over $10,000 in cash a day. B.C. Lottery Corporation introduced interim rules according to which transactions of over $10,000 are reported and casinos need to know the source of the money. Punters are required to fill in source-of-funds declarations for $10,000 or more they use to buy in chips or make deposits into casinos.
Money Laundering Spreads in Real Estate, Other Sectors
The previous report about irregularities in casinos across British Columbia has concluded that there had been indications of money laundering activities for many years. Its results, which were intentionally kept confidential according to attorney general Eby, show that some casino patrons have made huge deposits into their gaming accounts. Then, large withdrawal cheques were issued under their names but in many cases, these players have not even bought chips. The confidential report describes a case in which River Rock Casino accepted $13.5 million in $20 bills in July 2015.
The investigation lead by German looks into the ways suspicious cash flows have gone through B.C. casinos and have been introduced into real estate and other sectors of the province’s economy. Eby pointed out that a large portion of the money generated from drug dealing and other illegal operations eventually go into real estate. And at some point, this results in inflation in the property prices in British Columbia. Such cash flows spread into many other sectors of the economy. One of the measures recommended by Eby is tracking large retail purchases as well as investigating the purchases of luxury cars.
During his presentations at the finance committee on Tuesday, Eby spoke about the better implementation of the existing legislation related to monitoring of financial transactions. According to him, the police and law enforcement agencies should have easier access to the information collected and stored by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).