Casino News

Inquiry Hears Shocking B.C. Money Laundering Details

As the final days of Cullen’s Commission are drawing near, federal lawyers have presented an intriguing report from a 2012 RCMP investigation. According to the never-seen document, the investigation found that Richmond’s River Rock Casino and New Westminster’s Starlight Casino were a major hotspot for money laundering activities and that they were using wealthy patrons as willing pawns.

The recently presented document is one of the most striking examples that B.C. casinos were allowing high-rollers to wash their money on the gaming properties’ premises. The “Investigational Planning” document was used by federal lawyers to counter arguments from Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos & Entertainment who respectively own River Rock Casino and Starlight Casino.

Final Arguments

At the most recent episode of the inquiry of the money laundering probe Great Canadian Gaming Corporation’s lawyers claimed that there were gaps in police involvement in the casino. And that it was not the company’s responsibility of investigating or refusing shady cash transactions. Lawyer Mark Skwarok insisted that any accepted suspicious transactions were due to human error and not turning a blind eye.

David Gruber, who is the lawyer representing Gateway Casino stated that the evidence in regard to casino managers not accepting anti-money laundering provisions referred to Great Canadian Gaming and not his client. The lawyer also argued that the case of Yu Xiang Zhang was due to previous ownership of the casino. Mr. Zhang had no trouble converting CA$1.2 million casino chips into cash, despite the casino being aware that his source of money is questionable.

The RCMP report found that several B.C. casinos regularly accepted major cash transactions in CA$20 bills from patrons who were known to have ties to criminal activities and loan sharks. Also, the RCMP believed that both aforementioned casinos used VIPs, including Li Lin Sha, as part of the money washing schemes. According to the report, Mr. Sha completed at least CA$59 million in suspicious transactions from 2010 to 2015.

The “Investigational Planning” also states that the two casinos were in competition for Mr. Sha’s attention, and both properties even launched private solons specifically for the individual. The investigation also found another high roller Yu Zhao who presented himself as a CEO of a Chinese milk company, bought CA$1.8 million at River Rock Casino, mostly in CA$20 bills.

The RCMP’s surveillance and investigation also found discrete night-time parking lot meetings close to the casino. During these meetings, high-rollers met with middlemen, who immediately made major transactions at the casinos in cash. And according to the document, one of the middlemen was a B.C. politician who had ties with River Rock Casino’s management.

Whistleblower Testifies

Previously, the commission has also heard testimonies from the former director of anti-money laundering operations Ross Alderson, who finally resurfaced. During his questioning, Mr. Alderson state that he once tried to intervene in a money laundering transaction but he was then stopped by a casino manager. He was also told that he had no authority to question gamblers on the source of their cash.

Former Minister Testifies

In May this year, the inquiry’s counsel also interrogated former minister Richard Coleman, who was previously accused of turning a blind eye to the illegal money washing activities and manipulating the RCMP. Mr. Coleman defended himself, as insisted that he did not purposefully ignore the issue and that he never obstructed a police investigation.

Source: Cooper, Sam “B.C. casinos used foreign high rollers as money-laundering ‘pawns,’ inquiry hears”, Global News, October 19, 2021