New Report Details Rampant Money Laundering at British Columbia Casinos

  • Billions of dollars were laundered through BC casinos between 2008 and 2018
  • The BCLC, law enforcement, and numerous politicians were criticized in the report
  • Despite repeated warnings, action to combat the money laundering only began in 2015
  • There are 101 recommendations in the report to improve anti-money laundering standards
cash in clothes dryer
A new report has highlighted extensive failures that allowed billions of dollars to be laundered through British Columbia casinos. [Image:]

A wide-ranging investigation

A new report commissioned by the British Columbia provincial government reveals how billions of dollars were laundered through casinos in the province. Former British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen led the study, which was made public on Wednesday, looking at money laundering that took place between 2008 and 2018.

hearings took place over 133 days, with 199 witnesses

The publication of the 1,800-page report has been a long time coming. Hearings took place over 133 days, with 199 witnesses providing testimony. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) took a lot of criticism in the report, as well as numerous politicians who had gaming-related briefs. Former Justice Cullen believes that the politicians and operators didn’t do enough to prevent the money laundering that was occurring in plain sight.

Many red flags

While there was no exact figure in the report for the total sum of laundered money, Cullen believes that it was certainly billions of dollars every year. During a news conference, Cullen said: “For too long money laundering has been kept on the sidelines. Too often it has been largely ignored. It’s time for that to change.”

In addition to red flags regarding the significant size of cash transactions, the cash itself reportedly had characteristics common of cash often used in the commission of crimes, including the types of bills being used and how they were arranged and transported to the casino cages. Cullen believes that it should have been apparent that the casinos were handling massive sums of criminal proceeds.

Despite various law enforcement departments issuing repeated warnings, there was no proper action to deal with the money laundering until 2015. According to the report, the BCLC “resisted these calls for action and continued to allow these transactions, almost without exception.” A former senior investigator at the province’s gambling regulator said at a hearing that the cash smelled like drug money, but that the patrons were not questioned about the source of their funds.

Extensive recommendations

A BCLC legal presentative admitted that there should have been a quicker response to the suspicious transactions. While numerous politicians were criticized in the report, former Justice Cullen is of the belief that there was no evidence of corruption on their part for failure to adequately deal with the money laundering.  

In addition to laundering money through the province’s casinos, criminal organizations in the region also laundered money through the luxury goods market and local real estate.

In all, there are 101 recommendations in the report. They include lowering the proof of funds requirement to CA$3,000 (US$2,319) from CA$10,000 (US$7,731) and having a dedicated commissioner for anti-money laundering in place. British Columbia Attorney General David Eby welcomed the publication of the report and said that the province will review all of the recommendations. The plan, according to Eby, is for the region to change the image “of unchecked dirty money moving through our casinos to a model of governments responding forcefully to the threat of money laundering.”

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