The Cullen Commission’s investigation on money laundering activities in British Columbia casinos is coming to an end. After six weeks of hearings and testimonies, the jury is still out whether the enormous cash amounts used in the casinos were subject of money washing by organized crime groups. The inquiry has failed to provide any solid evidence or facts of the alleged crimes.
Despite no direct admission or proof of corruption, the inquiry heard from testimonies of authorities’ failure and unsuccessful policy and law enforcement. This was a result of massive miscommunication, bureaucracy, and even deliberate ignorance. Commissioner Austin Cullen is now burdened with the uneasy task of coming up with a verdict on the extent, growth, evolution, and methods of money laundering in six sectors of the economy including gambling.
However, the Commission is still hopeful to hear more information from gambling politicians and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the matter. But it remains to be seen whether this will happen any time soon since the police department is a federal entity and the government’s undertakings are not subject to provincial inquiry’s mandate.
Back in July 2019, commissioner Cullen alerted the public that the alleged money washing activities are usually not followed by any firm evidence of its occurrence or witnesses who are inclined about testifying publicly. There are six parties involved in the inquiry – the government, the police department, the regulator Gaming Policy, and Enforcement Branch, the BCLC that oversees the casino properties, the casinos themselves, and of course the gamblers.
According to the hearings, more common suspicions of illicit money laundering activities were raised in 2008. However, testimonies stated that the police authorities joined in on the investigation way in around 2015 after investigation of an international crime network. The commission is still waiting for the RCMP about its 2015 E-Pirate operation about alleged money laundering activities in Richmond.
GPEB’s report suggests that questionable cash transactions of almost CA$40,000,000 were recorded in 2011, CA$85,000,000 in 2012, and CA$$174 million in 2014 most of which came in 20-dollar bills. Additionally, in February 2016, according to a BCLC study staff of River Rock Casino and Resort overlooked and failed to report huge cash transactions. With testimonies of staff seeing duffel bags of cash in the casino. Upon awaiting more testimonies the commission will not turn to potential money washing in the real estate industry.
Hearings on the case on February 11, 2021, suggested that former president of the Crown Corporation Michael Graydon failed to comply with the anti-money laundering protocols. According to statements during his term, Mr. Graydon urged casino executives to meet the budget expectations disregarding money laundering concerns. He even encouraged them by promising generous bonus incentives if the budget was met.
More testimonies came on February 15, 2021, with former B.C. Gaming Enforcement Branch director Len Meilleur stating that many of the casinos’ high-rolling players were in the top 100 corruption suspects in 2015. Email correspondence between the ex-branch director and RCMP officer Calvin Chrustie where the two discussed the Crown agency’s inactivity towards the suspicious cash transactions.
Source: Wood, Graeme “Casinos inquiry awaits government and police explanations” Business In Vancouver, February 19, 2021