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Former BC Liberal minister and RCMP caused ‘tsunami’ of casino money laundering, inquiry hears

Click to play video 'Secret recordings reveal more shocking allegations surrounding money laundering in B.C.' Secret recordings reveal more shocking allegations surrounding money laundering in B.C.
Secretly-recorded conversations between a former B.C. solicitor general and a former illegal gambling investigator contain more shocking allegations about the lack of control over money laundering in B.C. John Hua reports – Nov 30, 2020

Former British Columbia gaming minister Rich Coleman and senior Mounties “caused this tsunami to take place in casinos,” a former solicitor-general said in 2018, according to a transcript released Monday during a public inquiry into money laundering

And in the transcript of the secretly recorded conversation between former solicitor-general Kash Heed and former RCMP officer Fred Pinnock, both men referred to former RCMP leaders in the province as “mafia”-like operators. 

They also discussed broader issues in the national force, such as lack of accountability for “sexual harassment,” according to the transcript. 

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The Cullen Commission has already heard testimony about three recorded conversations in 2018 between Heed and Pinnock, who is former commander of the RCMP illegal gaming unit in B.C.

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Pinnock has testified that he secretly recorded Heed to corroborate his memory of a meeting with him back in 2009.

According to Pinnock, the private meeting took place after Heed publicly shot down Pinnock’s criticism that organized crime and money laundering were rampant in B.C. casinos. And privately, Pinnock testified, Heed had told him that Coleman turned a blind eye to crime in B.C. Lottery Corporation casinos, and that it was “all about the money.”

Pinnock also claimed that Heed had told him in 2009 that the RCMP was complicit in a lack of policing inside B.C. casinos, and that several senior officers were “puppets” for Coleman.

Read more: Former BC Liberal minister accused of letting gangs launder money in government casinos

The commission is mandated to probe whether corruption allowed money laundering to take root in B.C. casinos and real estate.

While some parties named in the secret tapes, including Coleman and the RCMP, had argued that the evidence should be inadmissible, commissioner Austin Cullen decided to admit and release the recording transcripts on Monday, ruling that they provide “indirect support” for Pinnock’s testimony.

Coleman had argued that the transcripts are “scurrilous gossip regarding dozens of individuals” and contain “unfounded, and inaccurate, allegations,” Cullen wrote in his ruling.

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But only some portions of the tapes would be released, Cullen wrote, and other portions may come later, depending on evidence heard in the coming months. 

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Mr. Heed appears to adopt Mr. Pinnock’s suggestion that they talked about ‘… the big reason is it’s the money. All about money,’ nine years ago (i.e. in 2009),” Cullen wrote. 

Coleman has strongly denied turning a blind eye to wrongdoing in B.C. casinos, and, through his lawyer, has said he will not comment on evidence in the inquiry until he testifies sometime next year.

Heed’s lawyer has also argued to the commission that “if Mr. Heed is months away from being able to address the transcripts, they should not be included at this time.”

In the transcribed records released by Cullen, Heed and Pinnock discuss the circumstances surrounding the disbanding of Pinnock’s illegal gaming unit in 2009, and what they perceived as political interference by B.C.’s government in that decision as well as the RCMP’s provincial mandate. 

Heed also suggested in the transcripts that interference in the RCMP’s policing has persisted in B.C., and slammed the independent report on casino money-laundering filed in 2018 by former B.C. RCMP leader Peter German. And German was one of the former RCMP officers, the transcripts suggest, that Heed believed responsible for disbanding Pinnock’s unit.

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Read more: Exclusive: Peter German denies conflict in B.C. casino probe despite sitting on board with casino executive

In one recording, Heed describes phoning Attorney General David Eby and criticizing him for his choice of independent reviewer.

“I phoned him and gave him s— … I said, (redacted) was the assistant commissioner … when the decision was made, and he was part of that decision-making … (redacted) were part of the decision-making, were puppets for Coleman, to pull (Pinnock’s illegal gaming unit.)”

In the recording, both Heed and Pinnock condemned the RCMP and its leaders, saying some in the federal force operated like a “mafia.”

Pinnock described being contacted by an unidentified colleague and warned about the allegations he was making publicly about corruption in B.C. casinos.

“He said, ‘Fred, be careful; those f—–s are like the mafia,’ talking about the senior Mounties,” Pinnock said to Heed in the transcript. 

“Exactly,” Heed replied. “That’s exactly how (a person not identified by last name) described it too. They operate like the mafia.”

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In the conversation, Pinnock and Heed also criticized former RCMP officers who were taking contract work for B.C.’s government, and they discussed former RCMP officers who were involved in the administration of provincial policing services.

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“It’s funny — old Mounties and government contracts,” Pinnock said. 

“It’s ridiculous what’s going on with these guys here,” Heed said. “It’s just — they’re the most unethical group of people you can imagine. And then Coleman — Coleman was all part of it. It’s their network that caused this tsunami to take place in the casinos.”

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Heed continued his attack, pointing to what he called a lack of accountability in the federal force.

“Tell me what f—ing leader in the RCMP has ever been held accountable for … you know, harassment, sexual harassment … workplace harassment, all of that. One person that they’ve held accountable.” 

“You know, Kash, the organization’s out of control,” Pinnock responded. “If the scope of whatever investigation or inquiry is expanded to include political interference in policing, there are so many examples.”

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The two men also discussed administration of casinos and the real estate business in B.C., and what Heed saw as continuity on those files involving Coleman and his deputy minister at the time, Lori Wanamaker.

Read more: Cullen Commission told warnings about casinos ignored

The commission has previously heard from Larry Vander Graaf, the former executive director of the B.C. Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, that he warned Coleman in 2010 that casino investigators believed drug traffickers were laundering a “horrendous” number of $20 bills through B.C. Lottery Corp. facilities.

Vander Graaf has testified that in a meeting at the enforcement branch office in Burnaby, Coleman and Wanamaker listened to his recommendation that B.C.’s government should crack down on suspicious cash, but that nothing changed as a result of the meeting.

According to the transcript of one of Heed’s 2018 discussions with Pinnock, Wanamaker was influential in the province’s decisions on policing.

“Whatever Lori Wanamaker told him to do, he did,” Heed said of one unidentified B.C. policing official.

“Who is Lori Wanamaker?” Pinnock asked. 

“She’s been with Coleman for years,” Heed answered.

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“Okay. And that’s why the gaming file … followed him around?” Pinnock said.

“Yeah. Gaming and housing followed him around. Gaming and housing is always his.”

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In its submissions to the commissioner prior to his ruling, the RCMP had argued that certain parts of the transcripts also contain “inflammatory, unsubstantiated comments with respect to federal entities and individuals” and are “best described as Mr. Pinnock and Mr. Heed’s negative, unsubstantiated personal views about particular RCMP members and the RCMP as a federal institution.”

When asked to comment Monday on specific allegations from the transcripts, RCMP officials said they are “mindful” the commission is still underway and that many witnesses and participants have not yet testified.

“We are confident the Cullen Commission of Inquiry will allow for a fulsome gathering of the facts and the RCMP is fully participating and cooperating in the proceedings,” they said in a statement.

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