Casinos in British Columbia have been identified in an ongoing investigation as channels for laundering illicit money linked with drug trafficking, Chinese gangs, and international crime. The money laundering scandal continues with yet another case of suspicious transactions taking place at River Rock Casino in Richmond. According to a Canadian investigative journalist, a VIP casino patron linked with Chinese officials gambled with $490,000, which was received in a River Rock hotel room.
The unidentified gambler is linked with shady land deals in Australia and suspicions of corruption, journalist Sam Cooper reveals in a recent Global News investigation. The River Rock Casino VIP customer was an associate of a “politically exposed person” in China, while the funds were received by him or her in a hotel room in a most suspicious manner. All this is revealed in emails sent by British Columbia Lottery Corp. vice-president of corporate security and compliance Robert Kroeker. The emails were obtained by the Canadian media outlet in a Freedom of Information request.
Despite the VIP patron’s alleged links with potentially corrupted politicians and the undisclosed source of the money, the casino did not prevent this person from gambling with $490,000. Richmond’s River Rock Casino was not required to do that. In fact, it was the British Columbia Lottery Corporation which was responsible for deciding on a course of action. Instead of cancelling the transaction of suspicious funds or the person’s gaming account, the Crown corporation simply required the VIP to verify his source of funds for gambling in the future, the investigation also shows.
This is just one of the many cases of suspicious transactions spotted in Lower Mainland casinos that led to a special investigation to be launched by B.C. Attorney General David Eby. Last year, he tasked former high-ranking RCMP officer Peter German with reviewing allegations for money laundering in several casinos in the area, including Richmond’s River Rock Casino. Now, Eby is looking into the recommendations made by German regarding the introducing of new and more effective policies for dealing with money laundering practices, in casinos and elsewhere.
Lack of Specific Requirements for Canada’s Casino Sector
The journalist investigation also shows that although the VIP gambler was probably identified as “politically exposed” person, no actions were taken to stop him from gambling at River Rock. In Canada, there is new anti-money laundering legislation that specifically targets individuals who are considered politically exposed. Also, those who are found to be “associates” of high-ranking officials in other countries (especially in places such as China), are identified as high-risk individuals.
Once they register at a casino, for example, financial institutions and government agencies should perform a background check and determine whether they can be considered a high risk. In addition, when such an individual enters a casino or opens a bank account, staff should ask for approval from a senior manager to keep this account. And while this is true for banks and other financial institutions, there are no such requirements when it comes to casinos in Canada. They cannot stop a person from gambling on their premises over alleged links with Chinese officials, corruption, or suspicious transactions.
It is also important to note that while the River Rock Casino in Richmond is operated by the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, it is actually owned by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. This is a Crown corporation, which means that its owner is the Province of British Columbia. In March, David Eby told the House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa that Vancouver had become infamous for money laundering and that this problem was not limited to casinos. According to him, this model has spread to multiple sectors including real estate and the federal government should help tackle the problem, as provincial agencies do not have the resources for that.