A Toronto-based real estate tycoon who was recently arrested in a massive Markham illegal gambling den might be linked to an alleged similar illegal operation in British Columbia. Wei Wei was identified as the business partner of B.C. real estate developer Yongtao Chen. Their collaboration sparks concerns regarding casino money laundering ties between the two Canadian provinces.
Illegal gambling operation is harmful to the federal and the provincial governments it directly affects, as the gambling revenue amassed fails to be reinvested in the casino host community. High rollers are particularly drawn to the illicit gaming offerings out there, as they give them more freedom and the feeling of exclusivity they seek. The first days of October witnessed the revealing of a special operation.
Illegal casino welcoming high rollers was recently busted in Toronto, as it was confirmed by York Regional Police. The special operation called ‘Operation Endgame’ involved more than 100 policemen aiming to put an end to the illegal gambling operation in the 20,000-square-foot mansion in Markham.
July 23 was the original date when this police raid took place, revealing a premium location with marbled floors and additional accommodation on the second floor of the mansion. The police officers discovered various gaming offerings available inside, aiming to attract a larger audience of high rollers. There were slot machines and mahjong tables up for grabs. The latter is especially popular among Chinese high rollers interested in winning big in Canada.
The location itself was evaluated at CA$9 million. On its premises, there were also some 11 guns. The cash located there amounted to some CA$1 million, whereas the top-shelf alcohol amounted to upwards of CA$1.5 million. The raid also located as many as 32 individuals on the premises of the mansion, they were all arrested. Mr. Wei was among them and his name quickly surfaced in relation to many ties with officials.
B.C. Money Laundering
Soon after the arrests, the 52-year-old individual was linked to Prime Minister Trudeau, as they had both attended a CA$1,500 Liberal fundraiser back in 2016, held at the home of a Chinese-Canadian business executive. That event managed to stir the pot, as some attendees made donations to various organizations, such as the Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal. Mr. Wei attended this event in his role as the co-chair of the Canada China Chamber of Commerce Association.
Now his name was linked to Mr. Chen, Chairman of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, who has been supporting the idea of building ties between community groups in Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Along with the business opportunities, RCMP also expressed concerns related to the China-based transnational cartels operating in Vancouver and Toronto and illegal gambling dens in the two provinces.
Mr. Wei, his wife Xing Yue Chen, and Mr. Chen oversee an Ontario numbered company that purchased two Toronto hotels amounting to a total of CA$75 million. Ongoing investigations on Mr. Wei and his wife raise concerns about money laundering facilitated by a large number of properties in their possession. The probes continue and more details are expected to be unveiled.