Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is looking for answers on how massive money laundering was allegedly allowed to occur in B.C. casinos, but he did not commit to support for a Quebec-style Public Inquiry in B.C.
Trudeau was asked Thursday to respond to allegations in a Global News investigation, which revealed former casino investigators are questioning whether some B.C. officials deliberately allowed government-regulated casinos to be used as hubs for money laundering.
WATCH: B.C. union calls for casino money-laundering public inquiry in B.C.
In the story, the sources pointed to allegations of “willful blindness” by B.C. Lottery Corp. and casino operators of dirty cash transactions in B.C. casinos. Some questioned whether a “conspiracy” or corruption has occurred, that would allow dirty funds estimated by Global News at up to $2 billion, to flow through Lottery Corp. casinos.
WATCH: Money laundering flowing through back-door channels in B.C. casinos
“We have tasked the minister Bill Blair, to make sure that we are looking very carefully at the situation in B.C. in the casinos,” Trudeau said, without answering a Global News question on whether he believes a public inquiry is needed.
“We are working with partners in the province, and it is something that Canadians have a lot of questions about, and we are certainly looking for answers.”
Also on Thursday, an influential union comprised of B.C. government workers that has called for a public inquiry into money laundering and the opioid and housing affordability crises in B.C., released a poll that showed “overwhelming support” for such an inquiry.
The poll commissioned by the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union showed:
- 77 per cent of British Columbians in favour of an inquiry.
- 80 per cent of respondents say that an anti-corruption office similar to the one in Quebec should be established in B.C.
- 84 per cent say that this would be an important voting issue for them if a provincial election were called tomorrow.
The poll showed a majority of respondents said the BCLC, should take “most of the blame” for casino money laundering, rather than other levels of government.
“This poll backs up what we’ve been saying for months: British Columbians want answers,” union president Stephanie Smith stated. “No matter where they live, how old they are or who they vote for the citizens of our province support a comprehensive public inquiry as a way to get to the bottom of how these crises are connected, to make sure those who are responsible are held accountable and that the rest of us are protected going forward.
In Global’s investigation, Joe Schalk, former senior director of investigations for B.C.’s Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB), said that he and his colleagues strongly disagreed with the findings of an independent review that concluded casinos were “unwitting” victims of money laundering.
“It is my belief and my knowledge that this was allowed to happen,” Schalk said. “BCLC could have stopped this. The service providers could have stopped this. And if an inquiry were called, that is the evidence I would give.”