Industry Reports

The Vancouver Model: BC Casinos Linked with Chinese Gangs, Drugs and International Crime

The suspicions that money from criminal activity has been laundered through British Columbia casinos for years have spread and are now turning into a crisis, the province’s Attorney General David Eby said on Thursday. In a TV interview, he talked about transnational crime and Chinese gangs that target British Columbia in an elaborate scheme, known by international experts as “the Vancouver model”.

While Canada’s gambling industry grows, providing employment, business opportunities and a chance for economic development of provinces and small communities, it has been used apparently by organized crime groups in shady or outright illegal activities. This became clear in the past month after British Columbia Attorney General revealed details of an RCMP investigation of money laundering. In March, Eby appeared before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance where he explained that casinos in the province were linked with drug trafficking and money laundering and that this has taken place for more than ten years. He also told the Committee that there were no adequate measures and policies in place to track, investigate, and prosecute groups and individuals taking part in such activities.

Previously, a “suppressed” report revealed suspicious financial transactions to and from casinos in the Lower Mainland, the region surrounding Vancouver, B.C. While Eby then pledged to take affirmative action against money laundering in gambling facilities, it turned out that the scheme is much more sophisticated and it spreads across various sectors of Canada’s economy. In his testimony before the Committee on March 27, the Attorney General of British Columbia said that Vancouver has become “infamous for money laundering” and that international intelligence members call this method “the Vancouver model”.

Eby spoke about this issue on CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show Thursday morning and responded to a recently revealed investigation by Canadian news publication Global News. According to journalists, Chinese gangs known as The Triads have deeply “infiltrated” Canada’s economy, flooding the streets with narcotics and washing the money from selling Fentanyl through B.C.’s casinos and real estate. Eby admitted that the provincial government is aware that there is a serious problem, but it does not know the scale of it. According to him, the issue has turned into a crisis and the worst part of it is that officials are now just scratching the surface.

The Vancouver Model of Money Laundering

The Global News investigation details how the Vancouver model has worked through the years. The Chinese transnational organized crime syndicate, known as The Triads, was trafficking drugs, including Fentanyl, from the Chinese province Guangdong into Vancouver. They laundered the money generated from drug sales through British Columbia casinos and real estate market, and then, they transferred the funds back to China and to factories producing narcotics. This “deadly trade cycle”, as journalists call it, have affected multiple sectors of the economy in the country and have had an impact on various communities.

This investigation is based on a November 2017 report journalists received from the government of British Columbia. Its author is John Langdale of the department of security studies and criminology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The report was reviewed not only by David Eby but also by Australian intelligence officers and the anti-money laundering agency in the country, AUSTRAC. Eby told the federal committee shocking details of the so-called Vancouver model, adding that the only evidence of the scheme was “a guy lugging a hockey bag full of $20 bills”. He also said that this criminal model was not limited to B.C. casinos, but it was the reason behind the unexplained spike in real estate prices in and around Vancouver.