B.C.’s money laundering Inquiry will hear from a former RCMP illegal gambling unit leader who has alleged the force’s senior leaders and the provincial government knew some of the province’s casinos were over-run by organized crime but turned a blind eye rather than disrupt the flow of dirty cash.
In preliminary hearings Friday in Vancouver for the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Fred Pinnock, former head of B.C.’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET), will make his case for formal “standing” as a participant in the Inquiry.
Seventeen organizations have been given official standing, including the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the Law Society of British Columbia, and Canada’s government.
Pinnock explained during an exclusive 2018 interview with Global News why he believes corruption occurred in B.C. casinos, and said that “it would be a gross injustice if a public inquiry was not ordered by the B.C. government,” because “the public not only has the right to know, but they need to know.”
Pinnock ran IIGET from 2005 until 2008, and the unit was tasked with policing illegal casinos. But Pinnock says he repeatedly expressed the need to extend the unit’s mandate into BCLC casinos, and made a business case for the unit to target organized crime in government casinos. The reaction was “disinterest” from B.C. RCMP executives and a backlash from B.C.’s government, according to Pinnock. He said he was effectively sidelined by RCMP leaders and had to retire. His unit was disbanded by B.C.’s government in 2009.
In his independent review, former B.C. RCMP leader Peter German found that the loss of IIGET was significant.
“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 says.
A spokesperson for the B.C. Liberal party rejected Pinnock’s allegations that its leaders turned a blind eye to money laundering in BCLC casinos or held any influence over B.C. RCMP decision-making. The B.C. RCMP said it would not comment on Pinnock’s allegations.
On Friday, the B.C. Inquiry will also hear from BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody and vice-president Brad Desmarais, who have been asked by Commissioner Austin Cullen to give further testimony before he decides whether the men will be granted official standing.
Commissioner Cullen is also expected to comment on whether former BCLC anti-money laundering director Ross Alderson will have standing in the Inquiry.
Based on Global News’ review of B.C. government documents prepared by Alderson in 2015, it is believed he will share evidence related to the RCMP’s failed E-Pirate investigation into an alleged Mainland China cartel involved in underground banking and money laundering in B.C.’s legal and illegal casinos.
“On October 1st, 2019 I was granted a private meeting with members of the Cullen Commission,” a statement from Alderson to Global News says. “I was able to provide information relevant to the inquiry and we discussed how I could best help the inquiry.”
In freedom of information disclosures, 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 foreign “VVIP” high-rollers, which RCMP and BCLC investigators suspected of links to organized crime.
“From BCLC investigative interviews conducted with VVIP players so far BCLC has been able to determine that for a number of players they readily admit to not knowing the source of their cash, and that they pay back in suspicious circumstances using suspicious methods with little or no interest,” a report says. “This would indicate transnational money laundering rather than loan sharking.”
The reports says that although BCLC had complained to the RCMP about an alleged organized crime loan shark that became a primary target of E-Pirate, BCLC was still viewed as a problem by senior RCMP leaders.
“There should be concern that BCLC and (service provider) management will be accused of ‘willful blindness’” Alderson’s report says. “Sources have told me that law enforcement and Government (GPEB) “are distancing themselves from BCLC” for this reason, and in the result of any political backlash BCLC may be heavily criticized for not doing more over a number of years.”
The report also states: “There are likely people involved in the regulated B.C. gaming industry that are involved in facilitating proceeds of crime for players.”