B.C. attorney general asks BC Liberals to waive cabinet privilege on money laundering documents
Attorney General David Eby is asking for Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s help to obtain agreement of the previous government to waive cabinet privilege on documents related to money laundering.
In a letter sent to Wilkinson on Friday, Eby suggested the documents would help stop criminal activities at casinos.
“The information found in these documents would contribute to our efforts in finding ways to comprehensively end such criminal practices in BC casinos and throughout BC’s economy though avoiding failed measures already attempted by previous administrations,” the letter said.
“I can commit, on behalf of the government, that information from these documents would remain confidential.”
The German report, which was compiled by investigator Peter German, was commissioned by the current government to understand how far money laundering had spread in B.C. casinos.
LISTEN: Attorney General David Eby explains his request to the BC Liberals
German found widespread money laundering in gambling facilities and also suggested that criminal activity could be taking place in the real estate market, at horse tracks and in the luxury car market.
Eby said the documents would help to implement the German report’s recommendations.
“It is our government’s desire to continue to aggressively pursue measures to counter money laundering, but to do so in a manner that does not duplicate unsuccessful efforts from previous governments,” reads the letter.
In an interview with CKNW’s Simi Sara, Eby said he expects the Liberals to turn the documents over but isn’t sure how helpful they will be.
“We don’t know what exists on gambling. To be totally blunt I don’t think anything useful exists,” said Eby
“If they don’t consent I suspect the reality is there is nothing there and they are quite embarrassed by it. I do have a hard time imagining they won’t consent.”
The government could pass a law requiring the documents to be turned over but Eby says it should not have to come to that.
“We could certainly pass a law that would hopefully give us access to this. But there is a constitutional principal around cabinet confidence, around people in cabinet being able to have open debates in a confidential way and we respect that convention. But in this regard it would be really useful to have that information,” said Eby.
Wilkinson is unavailable for comment today because he is travelling. Opposition House Leader Mary Polak released a statement calling this an ‘example of the Attorney General playing politics with a serious issue’.
“His request to release confidential cabinet documents, which was released to media before the opposition had an opportunity to review, will be given the consideration it deserves. A formal response will be made in due course and provided in writing,” said Polak.
“Instead of playing games with confidential cabinet documents, the Attorney General should focus on implementing the recommendations from the German Report and pursuing charges against those who have broken the law.”
The previous government has been widely criticized for a lack of action in cracking down on money laundering in casinos.
The former head of B.C.’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET) said the Liberals didn’t crack down on money laundering in casinos because they didn’t want to disrupt the flow of money.
Fred Pinnock said the previous government were well aware of what was happening in casinos.
“Fault lies at the feet of the BC Liberals while they were in government and senior management of the RCMP in this province,” said Pinnock.
“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.”
LISTEN: B.C. attorney general asks BC Liberals to waive cabinet privilege on money laundering documents
Former solicitor general Rich Coleman has rejected the idea that his government was “addicted” to the casino profits.
He also rejected 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 HERE: Extended interview: Former head of B.C.’s illegal gambling enforcement team had raised concerns
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 Joint Integrated Gaming Investigation Team was established under the Liberals’ watch in 2015, after widespread reporting on money laundering in casinos.
That team was responsible for dealing with organized crime and money laundering such facilities.
The German report noted that the team’s establishment led to a 60-per-cent dropoff in the number of suspicious transactions reported at casinos.
German interviewed Coleman for the report and concluded that there were significant impacts from the decision to rid the province of IIGET in 2009.
“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 said.
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