Most British Columbians support inquiry into money laundering at casinos: poll

Peter German, front left, former deputy commissioner of the RCMP, speaks about his review of anti-money laundering practices in the province as B.C. Attorney General David Eby listens during a news conference, in Vancouver, on Wednesday June 27, 2018. Money-laundering operations through Vancouver-area casinos is tied to the opioid crisis and the real-estate market in British Columbia, Eby said Wednesday as he released an independent report that details how organized crime groups used the gaming industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Public pressure is building for the B.C. government to call a public inquiry into money laundering at casinos. A poll from Research Co. found that 76 per cent of British Columbians want to see a public inquiry into the issue. A similar poll conducted in June found the same amount of support for an inquiry.

“The appetite for a public inquiry into money laundering in casinos has not died down over the past two months,” said Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “There is also an extremely high proportion of residents who want to create an office to prevent corruption in the public sector.”

The results of the poll are based on an online study conducted from August 13 to August 14, 2018, among 800 adults in British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in British Columbia.

Province-wide, 78 per cent of people want to see the B.C. government establish an office similar to Quebec’s Anti-Corruption Commissioner, which was created “to ensure the coordination of actions to prevent and to fight corruption in the public sector, including in contractual matters.”

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READ MORE: Exclusive: Peter German denies conflict in B.C. casino probe despite sitting on board with casino executive

The public interest has been fueled by the German Report, an independent report looking into the issue, and the fallout following the report. Global News reported last week that some critics are alleging that British Columbia’s independent probe of casino money laundering was compromised, because reviewer Peter German sits on the board of Richmond’s Olympic Oval with the Great Canadian Gaming executive who is responsible for River Rock Casino’s troubled VIP gaming program.

In response,  German said in an exclusive interview with Global News that there was no conflict, despite his decision not to interview Walter Soo, the man who built River Rock’s extremely profitable VIP betting business.

WATCH HERE: A bombshell twist in B.C.’s money laundering investigation

Click to play video: 'A bombshell twist in B.C.’s money laundering investigation' A bombshell twist in B.C.’s money laundering investigation
A bombshell twist in B.C.’s money laundering investigation – Aug 20, 2018

But a former Great Canadian security manager who also provided information for German’s review, Proka Avramovic, said he sees a number of problems in German’s relationship with Soo.

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“I’m stunned. The whole report is compromised,” Avramovic said in an interview with Global News, when he was informed of German’s decision not to interview Soo. “With this, how can we trust that Peter German didn’t leave Walter Soo, and a whole bunch of other names, out of that report? Because he didn’t do a very important interview with one of the key players, who still exists in the business.”

READ MORE: Horgan won’t rule out naming names and placing blame in money laundering probe

The German report was a fact-finding report, not designed to place blame. A week after the release of the independent report into money laundering in B.C. casinos, Premier John Horgan said it was still possible the government could name names and place blame.

“I haven’t ruled that out,” Horgan told reporters on Wednesday.

“I spoke with the attorney general about that just today.”

READ MORE: Money laundering report recommends new police unit to oversee casinos

But at the same time, Horgan appeared chilly to the idea of a public inquiry, citing concerns about the cost. So far, the premier says the BC Liberals, who were in power during what the report deemed a “decade of dirty money,” are blaming everyone but themselves.

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“Be responsible, be accountable and we can move on from there,” Horgan said.

In the poll released today, almost two in five residents (39 per cent) think the previous provincial government deserves “all of the blame” or “most of the blame”. About one in four (23 per cent) feel the same way about the current provincial government headed by the BC NDP.

— With files from Sam Cooper

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