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BCLC in Hot Water After Accusations of Turning Blind Eye to Dirty Money

BCLC in Hot Water After Accusations of Turning Blind Eye to Dirty Money

BCLC is weeks under investigation as the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia conducts daily hearings of money laundering issues, which seem to be rife in the province. This week, the Cullen Commission heard testimonies from former British Columbia Lottery Corporation employees as well as from a former casino investigator.

Check out updates on the BCLC’s Twitter account.

Ron Barber was appointed by the province’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) to investigate Richmond’s River Rock Casino in 2010. The former police officer spoke of the culture of indifference he witnessed in the Crown corporation, and of the reluctance to enforce the Gaming Control Act. In his seven years as a casino investigator, Barber said that he witnessed several cash buy-ins which were increasing in frequency and amount, so much so that at a point, CA$800,000 in CA$20 notes were accepted and no eyebrows were raised.

Barber’s testimony tallied with testimonies given by other former BCLC employees, who all said that they were relegated to nothing more than writing the same yearly reports. Moreover, any requests they made for formal investigations were shut down. The situation only continued to worsen until omissions and on-purpose reporting errors became a regular thing. Barber told Commission Austin Cullen that “I had very little authority for whatever reason, and it was long established.” Of the reports, Barber said “[investigators] wrote those reports year in, year out, but management didn’t stop the flow of money coming in.”

Another point mentioned was that during the seven years in question, the GPEB did not carry out a single independent investigation, despite the country’s mandate of the Gaming Control Act. Barber also mentioned assistant deputy minister at the GPEB John Mazure as sharing the same concerns. Allegedly, Mazure had once told Barber that he could not get the BCLC “to heel” and that he believed that people working for the “GPEB were a bunch of ‘rogue’ investigators.”

On Monday, the Cullen Commission also heard from Steve Beeksma, a BCLC anti-money laundering specialist who was posted at Richmond’s River Rock Casino and who gave damaging testimony against BCLC. Beeksma echoed Barber’s claim of having seen hundreds of thousands of dollars being handed in CA$20 bills in exchange for casino chips. He singled out an incident in which one of the biggest players in British Columbia managed to successfully exchange CA$645,000 in cash for casino chips. Beeksma dutifully wrote a report on the matter, but says that the BCLC were very slow to act and seemed reluctant to withhold the man from going to more casinos and repeating the incident.

Read more about money launderers who were caught in Richmond.

Beeksma also claimed that investigators were explicitly told not to talk to customers and not to interfere. The message being passed on was that “we’re not cops and stop interviewing players.” When asked by the Commission’s lawyer Patrick McGowan whether the supervisor had used any strong or offensive language, Beeksma said that this was the case.

In a press release, BCLC said that they welcomed the inquiry and are looking forward to supporting “the Inquiry’s work to find solutions to the threat that money laundering poses, while also helping British Columbians better understand BCLC’s specific role in the anti-money laundering regime and the actions it has taken and continues to take to improve anti-money laundering controls in B.C. casinos.”

The hearing will continue online for this week in the hopes of gathering enough information for an interim report to be published by mid-November, with a final report being expected in May 2021.

Stay tuned on SuperLenny’s news page.

 

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