BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson says he has requested copies of cabinet documents related to money laundering, but his staff will review them before turning them over to the money laundering public inquiry.
CKNW host Lynda Steele asked Wilkinson why the Liberals had not yet waived cabinet confidentiality so the government could see what decisions were made and not made to address the money laundering issue when the party was in power.
“We have sent the request in to the department of the Attorney General,” Wilkinson said. “We expect that to be ready for the Cullen Inquiry when it starts in February.”
In August 2018, Attorney General David Eby asked for Wilkinson’s help to obtain the agreement of the previous government to waive cabinet privilege on documents related to money laundering. Eby suggested the documents would help stop criminal activities at casinos.
“The information found in these documents would contribute to our efforts in finding ways to comprehensively end such criminal practices in B.C. casinos and throughout B.C.’s economy through avoiding failed measures already attempted by previous administrations,” Eby wrote in a letter in 2018.
“I can commit, on behalf of the government, that information from these documents would remain confidential,” he added.
Wilkinson says Eby is too political to be trusted with the documents. But when pressed on the issue, Wilkinson said it would be up to the Liberals in terms of what documents are turned over to the inquiry head Austin Cullen.
“We are not handing over the documents. We haven’t seen them yet. We need to see what is pertinent and relevant,” Wilkinson said.
“We will be willing to cooperate with the inquiry.”
The B.C. Liberals previously appointed former minister Mike de Jong to deal with the Attorney General’s office on this issue. Current Attorney General David Eby says there are concerns about who will be selecting what documents get sent to the inquiry.
“We have been asking the opposition for a while to release the supposed anti-money laundering initiatives they engaged in. I say supposed because all the evidence points to them ignoring the problem,” Eby said.
“I have no doubt there is a great deal of self interest in insuring that the most interesting documents don’t get to the commission. I can’t image a world in which British Columbians would be ok with the idea that some of the people that will be examined by the commissioner are the same people that will decide what are the records the commission gets to see.”
Additional questions have been raised about the BC Liberals’ struggles to stop money laundering after a story published this week by Global News reporter Sam Cooper.
Global News reported a businessman “connected to Asian organized crime” was allowed by a provincial government employee to buy part of a B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) casino, according to a confidential RCMP report.
That government employee was later hired in a B.C. casino.
The explosive accusation is just one example of organized crime’s alleged infiltration and corruption of B.C. government casinos, according to a January 2009 RCMP anti-illegal gaming unit report.
The report argued the RCMP anti-illegal gaming unit (IIGET) should target the drug cartels using BCLC casinos, in combination with illegal casinos, to launder money.
But three months later, instead of following the report’s recommendations, B.C.’s government defunded and disbanded the illegal gaming unit.
Wilkinson says all of this unfolded before his time in the party, and that it will take time to go through any documents the deputy attorney general provides about Liberal cabinet meetings.
“We have to process those and figure out what is appropriate when the right time comes,” Wilkinson said.
“You have got to understand that this is over a 17-year period. It could be a whole room full of material some poor soul has to go through.”
Eby said Wednesday in the wake Global News’ report that the decision made by the minister responsible for shutting down the RCMP unit, then-solicitor general and current MLA Rich Coleman, is troubling.
“I would think anyone that reads a report about kidnapping, extortion, organized crime involvement in casinos, their immediate instinct wouldn’t be to disband the policing team, it would be ‘should we providing more resources, what’s going wrong here, how do we fix this problem?'” Eby said.
“The fact that we know the money laundering continued in casinos in the Lower Mainland for another seven years after that report, until the new government was sworn in, is really inexcusable in my opinion.”
Coleman has denied multiple requests for an interview, only saying in a statement that he will cooperate with the public inquiry. He has stated in the past that the IIGET unit was ineffective.
—With files from Sam Cooper and Sean Boynton