Following the schedule last Friday former finance minister Mike de Jong has given his side of the battle with British Columbia’s money laundering activities in gambling properties and real estate sectors. Mr. de Jong insisted that despite allegations that authorities were uninterested in tackling the issue, the government has put significant efforts into understanding and resolving the issue at the province.
The public inquiry is led by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen and since its creation, in May 2019 its purpose is to provide evidence and testimony on the subject of money washing in the province’s casinos. So far, the commission has heard testimony from gambling regulators, the RCMP, and numerous government officials and it has until December to compile its final report.
Former Minister’s Side
On April 23, 2021, now-former finance minister Mike de Jong has given testimony at the public inquiry. He stated that the allegations of the BCLC prioritizing higher revenue rather than tackling the money washing issues were untrue. He also stated that it was very frustrating to hear that the government was not interested in dealing with the issue.
Mr. de Jong who was in charge of gaming from 2013 to 2017 claimed that he was not familiar with cases where government or gambling operatives have deliberately stalled or intervened in the resolve of the subject. He explained that he never witnessed anyone who was purposefully trying to avoid addressing the issue of money laundering.
The former minister has also defended officials of the Crown corporation as there were concerns that the agency was prioritizing bigger revenue instead of taking the needed measures against the illegal activities. He also explained that he only understood the degree of occurring suspicious cash transactions in 2015 and that is when he decided that there must be done more.
Additionally, Mr. de Jong explained that the moment it occurred to him that more should be done to tackle the issue was in the fall of 2015. This was when all parties discussed that the matter will require even further police involvement and investigation that was not present at that time. In conclusion, he said that he was unconvinced that back then anyone realized the magnitude of the subject.
A day prior to Mr. de Jong’s testimony, on April 22, 2021, former B.C minister Shirley Bond has also shared her side of the money laundering saga at the inquiry. Ms. Bond said that back in 2011 the provincial government had plenty to deal with as gang violence, civil forfeiture, and gambling addictions were among the raising concerns.
Previously the money-laundering inquiry heard testimony from former provincial premier Christy Clark. She insisted that she understood about the re-occurring issue way in 2015 when it was allegedly at its peak. She defended the government’s actions, stating that the creation of the task force was not deliberately delayed but was rather formed when it reached Mr. de Jong’s office in 2015.
Source: “Former cabinet minister says B.C. Liberal government took money laundering seriously” Vancouver Sun, April 23, 2021