British Columbia’s continued delays on opening a public inquiry into casino money laundering is proof that the issue must be addressed out in the open, outspoken Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West said Friday.
That’s when the NDP government introduced baccarat tables and raised betting limits, which were raised further when the BC Liberals took power in 2001.
Speaking on Focus BC Friday, West said the new allegations show that the truth about who knew what and when needs to be exposed as soon as possible.
WATCH: Mayor Brad West says a public inquiry into money laundering is the only way to fix the problem in B.C.
“What I am is pissed off,” he said. “Again, what you have here is clear evidence that a lot of people knew what was going on… and the people responsible for doing something about it, to address the issue, didn’t do anything.
“We need to get this issue out of the hands of the politicians and into the hands of a public inquiry so we can put an end to this nightmare that has been inflicting our province for far too long.”
West has long called for a public inquiry into money laundering as Global News has exposed ties between Asian crime syndicates and B.C.’s casinos, the real estate industry and the fentanyl crisis.
The latest allegations came from Muriel Labine, a former employee of the Great Canadian Gaming casino in Richmond, B.C. Working as a dealer supervisor, she monitored the integrity of gambling on the casino floor.
Labine said there was a marked increase in VIP gamblers and high rollers coming into the casinos in May 1997, after the then-NDP government increased bet limits from $25 to $500 per hand.
Documents show the casino’s revenue nearly doubled in just two months after the increases came into effect.
WATCH: Global News’ 3-part series on the ‘casino diaries’ brought forward by a B.C. whistleblower
Betting limits were regularly increased until they reached $100,000 under the Liberals in 2015.
Government documents reviewed by Global News show gaming revenue going directly to the B.C. government was roughly $284 million in 1996, but later spiked by an average of $70 million per year before reaching $1.08 billion in 2007.
Revenue continued to increase until it reached $1.4 billion this year.
West said that revenue could be a big reason why the province is hesitating on calling a public inquiry.
“I think the truth is there’s a number of people who are in positions of responsibility who did know what was going on, who saw the bags of cash but they looked the other way because for a lot of folks this was the golden goose,” he said.
“As long as the money kept flowing, they weren’t really interested in asking the questions of where those $20 bills, where those hockey bags of $20 bills were coming from,” West added, referencing specific allegations made by Labine.
“I think you need to follow the evidence, and wherever that lies, we should go.”
B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver agrees.
“More than ever we need a public inquiry,” he said in the wake of this week’s reports.
B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson, meanwhile, said a public inquiry would impede prosecutions and the process of putting away “the bad guys” — that, he said, is what the public truly wants.
WATCH: Who should be held accountable in money laundering scandal?
But West pushed back on that assertion, saying the Charbonneau Commission worked hand-in-hand with prosecutors to not only expose corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, but also lay charges and convictions against several direct players, including politicians.
Investigators behind those convictions said they relied directly on testimony delivered during the public inquiry.
“Mr. Wilkinson knows that, so he’s incorrect, and I’m only left to guess as to why he would continue to say something that is false,” West said.
“I think many people in his party are scared of a public inquiry, quite frankly.”
Premier John Horgan said his government is taking the allegations seriously and is working to “clean up” the casino industry, but added he doesn’t “see the value” of “going back two, three decades — or two decades, in this case — and saying, ‘Hey, that’s where it started.’”
WATCH: (Aired May 2) Growing calls for a public inquiry into money laundering in B.C.
West said that’s precisely what needs to happen in order to ensure money laundering is stamped out in the province, and supports reaching back as far as necessary to find the proper evidence.
“If you don’t know the full extent of what happened, how it happened, and why it happened, how are you ever going to be able to adequately fix this and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future?” he asked.
“That is the key, and what we have seen so far is that government really doesn’t have a handle on any of those questions.”
—With files from Richard Zussman, Sam Cooper, John Hua and Keith Baldrey