Top executives leave roles at casino company at centre of B.C. money laundering inquiry

Click to play video: 'Questions about Great Canadian Gaming executives'
Questions about Great Canadian Gaming executives
WATCH: On the eve of a public inquiry into money laundering at B.C. casinos, there are questions about the current status of two executives at Great Canadian Gaming. John Hua reports. – Sep 26, 2019

As B.C.’s money laundering inquiry prepares to hear from a whistleblower, several key executives for the B.C. casino company at the centre of the inquiry are no longer on the management roster according to documents.

Great Canadian Gaming management financial filings show that Walter Soo is now out as company vice-president of player and gaming development. And Great Canadian Gaming’s former vice-president of corporate security and compliance, Patrick Ennis, is also no longer an executive with the company.

Great Canadian Gaming has refused to comment on the staff moves. It is not known why the employees left their positions, and Global News has not been able to reach Soo or Ennis to ask them about the decision, after repeated efforts.

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But Sandy Garossino, a B.C. casino industry critic and former Crown prosecutor, said whatever the reason for the major shuffle, B.C.’s public inquiry should hear from the executives in charge when investigations regarding VIP gamblers and suspicious transactions were launched at the company’s River Rock Casino, in Richmond.

“The gaming VIP rooms are really the hot point. So the people responsible for that and the people responsible for compliance, those would be very crucial individuals in unpacking the entire issue,” Garrosino said.

“You want to see continuity and you want to see the people responsible for that appearing at public inquiries, giving evidence and providing information to the public.”

VIP room probes under Soo’s watch

According to corporate documents and interviews with company insiders, after starting out as a dealer with Great Canadian in 1983, it was Walter Soo that steadily built River Rock’s massively profitable VIP gambling room business.

But documents show that Soo’s VIP program at River Rock — which relied on private high-limit betting rooms, large cash transactions, and cultivation of wealthy patrons — has been the subject of a number of audits and probes by B.C. Gaming Enforcement Branch (GPEB).

For example, Soo was in charge, documents show, when a GPEB investigation caused a top River Rock VIP hostess to lose her registration in 2018.

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 An 11-page gaming intelligence investigation report by GPEB obtained by Global News said the River Rock VIP case that occurred in September 2017 under Soo’s watch was “highly suspect.”  

“There was a large third-party buy-in this month where a brand new patron walked in with $200,000 in $100 bills and waited to receive chips. Once the chips were delivered the patron left the casino without any play,” the report states.

And a summary of GPEB findings and concerns in the case, says: “BCLC have obtained a copy of the declaration and it appears the individual buying ($200,000 worth of casino chips) claimed the funds were his, although it is alleged that some RRCR clearly knew this to be false.”

Other documents disclosed in a Global News freedom of information request show that Ross Alderson, the former B.C. Lottery Corp. director of anti-money laundering, is the investigator that asked GPEB to probe the case.

Alderson is expected to testify in a public hearing this year to determine whether he will be granted “standing” as a witness in the upcoming Cullen Commission money laundering inquiry.

WATCH: Money laundering flowing through back-door channels in B.C. casinos

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Exclusive: Money laundering flowing through back door channels in B.C. casinos

Global News has obtained a number of documents prepared by Alderson for the Lottery Corp. which indicate that in 2015 he had started to investigate a number of VIP gamblers from Mainland China that investigators suspected of links to organized crime and “transnational money laundering.”

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Great Canadian Gaming did not respond to a question from Global News, on whether Walter Soo was involved in the GPEB probe. There has been no indication that Soo has been investigated for unlawful activity in his executive role with Great Canadian. Attempts to reach Soo through his LinkedIn account for Great Canadian have not been successful, and the account has been removed from public view.

B.C.’s office of the Attorney General also would not answer whether Soo was connected to the probe.

“We are unable to comment if there are ongoing or potential investigations, or comment on the identity of specific individuals for reasons of privacy,” a statement said.

Great Canadian Gaming CEO Rod Baker was not made available for comment on this story.

In a prepared response for a previous story regarding the Ontario gambling regulators review of the GPEB investigation of Soo’s VIP program and the $200,000 suspected money laundering transaction, Great Canadian Gaming said it strictly complies with rules from all regulators.

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