The inquiry into money laundering on the B.C casinos’ premises by the Cullen’s Commission is still ongoing and the latest hearing provided more light on the subject. With the former head of the company’s VIP program Walter Soo giving a testimony about how he was tasked with enrolling high-profile gamblers, amidst concerns of money laundering activities by organized crime groups.
Crown corporation’s executives expanded the high-limit “VIP” program, which purpose was to generate more revenue for the industry in 2015. After Mainland Chinese criminal suspects put their attention and efforts to wash money in the corporation’s River Rock Casino in Richmond. After their undergoing illegal activities in Macau casinos were busted by president Xi Jinping
Alison Latimer who is a lawyer from the Commission questioned the current CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Terrance Doyle about several examples of the corporation stalling investigations for money laundering activities in the casinos from 2014 to 2017. Mr. Doyle responded that the corporation did not want to interview the high-rolling players for their source of cash, since that would have put the business in jeopardy.
Mr. Latimer has also brought up a case where high-profile player Li Lin Sha was banned by the BCLC on the basis that he was seen drinking with a River Rock VIP room manager Lisa Gao, then the former proceeded to sexually assault a Great Canadian Gaming employee. In the inquiry, we also heard that the VIP client has placed 450 large cash buy-ins and 100 transactions from 2006 to 2017.
Mr. Sha admitted that he was in possession of around CA$3 million in River Rock casino chips, which he claims to have obtained in the casino by making calls to unknown Macau, China, and Hong Kong connections. Despite his confessions, the Crown corporation still welcomed him and even reduced his ban to three months, according to Latimer.
An email discussion between Mr. Doyle and Great Canadian manager Pat Ennis was read at the hearing where the latter urged to loosen up on the restrictions on a female gambler since she did not want to discuss her source of income with investigator Ross Alderson. Mr. Doyle was one of the executives who complained about Alderson and the Crown agency banishing from the casinos 46 VIPs who were allegedly connected to crime lord Paul King Jin.
The inquiry also heard Walter Soo’s testimony that back in 2015 he had conducted a private baccarat table business, which aimed to attract Mainland Chinese VIPs. However, Mr. Soo stated that the casinos were not interested oh how the clients have come in possession of their money, since the corporation’s idea was only to make the best possible of the situation.
Why the Inaction?
According to former boss of Gaming Police and Enforcement Branch Doug Scott, the Canadian police department did not possess the required funds or tools in the fight against money laundering in B.C. casinos. And he even admitted to deliberately not informing the law-enforcement about the Crown agency’s investigators who were raising concerns over outgoing money washing in the province’s casinos.
From the inquiry, we also learned about how in August 2015, the then-gaming minister Mike de Jong sent a letter to BCLC’s CEO Jim Lightbody to suggest the introduction of an anti-money laundering direction. Which stated that big cash transactions must be supported by a source-of-cash declaration in order to limit the suspicious cash amounts in the casinos. However, the corporation was unwilling to accept the measure due to concerns about losing on potential revenue.
Source: Cooper, Sam “Great Canadian Gaming tried to tap Chinese capital fleeing Xi Jinping’s corruption probe, inquiry hears”, Global News, February 9, 2021