The former head of B.C.’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET) says the former provincial government didn’t crack down on money laundering in casinos because they didn’t want to disrupt the flow of money. Speaking publicly for the first time in almost a decade, Fred Pinnock says the B.C Liberals were well aware of what was going on in casinos.
“Fault lies at the feet of the B.C. Liberals while they were in government and senior management of the RCMP in this province,” said Pinnock.
Extended interview: Former head of B.C.’s illegal gambling enforcement team had raised concerns
“They all knew what was going on in those casinos and racetracks. Primarily casinos, in particular, the big ones. It was wild west in those large casinos where organized criminal activity was running amok.
“It was no secret to government. At all.”
Pinnock ran IIGET from 2005 until 2008. He is coming forward after reading the Peter German report released last week detailing widespread money laundering in casinos.
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When asked directly about former solicitor general and current Liberal MLA Rich Coleman’s remark that the B.C. Liberals followed the RCMP’s lead and didn’t want to “compromise any investigations,” Pinnock said he wasn’t going to comment “on any statements attributed to any individuals.”
“But I will say I know I was complained about by government for my strident views in terms of casinos and what was going on,” said Pinnock. “And I do know that a senior member in 2011 was muzzled by the RCMP as a result of a complaint from government one year before the contract was up for renewal and I think there’s a connection between those … events.”
Coleman rejects the idea his government was “addicted” to the casino profits. He also rejects the notion that the government held any influence over B.C. RCMP decision-making because of the pending renewal of the provincial policing contract. The contract was ultimately renewed by the former government.
WATCH: Reporter John Hua has details about a key figure stepping forward to tell his side of the story about the extent of B.C.’s money laundering problems in casinos.
In responding to Pinnock’s accusations on behalf of the former government, Coleman said he was comfortable with the way he acted while in charge of the gaming file.
“The reality is what he is saying is inflammatory and it isn’t correct,” said Coleman. “The reality is that no one interfered with his ability to do his job from a political perspective.”
The B.C. RCMP declined to comment stating they could not locate someone who could properly speak to those operational decisions.
Coleman told CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show that it is a “load of garbage” to make that suggestion and he did everything in his capacity to stop illegal activity in casinos.
When Coleman was serving as solicitor general, the government decided to scrap Pinnock’s IIGET team in 2009, a year after Pinnock’s retirement.
This came even though there were reports available to the government that showed substantial money laundering in B.C. casinos.
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“I think we tried. I think the challenge was IIGET didn’t work. I thought IIGET would work better than it did. And I think that was our biggest disappointment,” said Coleman.
“We did everything we could. I had the confidence to do my job arm’s length from any interference with any investigation from police.”
After widespread reporting on money laundering in casinos the Joint Integrated Gaming Investigation Team was established under the Liberals watch in 2015. That team was responsible for dealing with organized crime and money laundering in casinos.
The German Report notes that the establishment of the team led to a 60 per cent drop-off in the number of suspicious transactions reported at casinos.
German interviewed Coleman for the report and concluded that getting rid of IIGET in 2009 had a significant impact.
“The loss of IIGET meant that the future rise of loan sharking, money laundering and organized crime in casinos, let alone illegal gaming outside of casinos, remained primarily with (BC Lottery Corp. and Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch) to sort out,” German’s report says.
Pinnock’s job was to gather intelligence about illegal gambling and he had spent a career as an organized crime expert in the RCMP. Multiple times during his time heading IIGET, he attempted to express the need to expand the team’s mandate into casinos but said there was “disinterest” from senior management within the RCMP and the government “played ostrich” by burying their heads.
Pinnock is alleging the government did not want to know about laundering going on at casinos because “they knew they had a good thing going.”
WATCH: Global News reporter John Hua spoke exclusively with Fred Pinnock about what the BC Liberals knew about the problem of money laundering in B.C. casinos.
“Any interruption in the flow of dirty money into casinos would not be in the best interest of the B.C. Liberals. Corruption can come in many forms. It’s not always the greasy little man handing out envelopes of cash,” said Pinnock. “It can also come in the form of a government looking the other way when dirty money is filling its coffers. It can also be extended to senior management in policing organizations who choose not to do the right thing when given the opportunity.”
Pinnock would not speak about any individuals, including former ministers, casino employees or members of the RCMP. But when asked about Coleman’s comments that the Liberals did everything they could he said they were “grossly inaccurate and dishonest.”
“I believe the B.C. Liberals were enablers. In terms of the flow of dirty cash into our casinos,” said Pinnock. “Blame should be applied to those that are responsible. People should be held to account. It is my firm belief that it would be a gross injustice if a public inquiry was not ordered by the B.C. government right now. The public not only has the right to know, but they need to know. It’s not pretty.”
The B.C. Liberals have been widely criticized since the B.C. government released German’s report. In releasing the report, Attorney General David Eby alleged the former government had “turned a blind eye.”
“The German report paints a troubling picture of government that didn’t respond effectively to pervasive money laundering in B.C. casinos. German found they didn’t effectively detect, prevent or prosecute it — they turned a blind eye to it,” said Eby.
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When Eby was told about Pinnock’s allegations, the attorney general said it was “concerning” but it didn’t surprise him that the former IIGET head brought issues of illegal activity in casinos up to the government of the day.
“It’s not like it was impossible to address this issue. It’s not like it was an invisible issue or it was hard to figure out,” said Eby. “I think it’s incredibly troubling when you have a former police officer who is responsible for this who is coming forward and saying ‘look, I tried to raise this issue and I thought we needed more attention to it and I was shut down.'”