BC Liberal de Jong refused measure to prevent casino money laundering, commission told

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Former BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong refused in 2015 to implement a measure to reduce the risk of money laundering in casinos, the Cullen Commission was told yesterday.

BC Lottery Commission CEO Jim Lightbody testified that he asked de Jong if he wanted to take steps to reduce high-stakes bets made in casinos, some as high as $100,000 and paid for with unsourced $20 bills carried in shopping bags.

“We were told no, we would deal with it from the enforcement side,” said Lightbody.

The former minister made this decision even though the RCMP told gaming officials in 2015 that a group linked to organized crime was involved in buying chips in BC casinos.

“(The RCMP said) there was a potential tie-in with transnational terrorist financing. I was blown away,” Lightbody said. (Global News)

Late last year, three former senior RCMP officers told the Cullen Commission that BC Liberal cabinet ministers were told at least three other times about money laundering in casinos, and refused to stop it.

  • In 2008, former RCMP officer Wayne Holland, who headed up the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET) provided a money laundering threat assessment to government that “was more substantial than we ever anticipated.” (Global News)
  • In 2009, RCMP officer and then-IIGET head Fred Pinnock tried to meet directly with former BC Gaming Commission Minister Rich Coleman to warn him of money laundering – an effort that was sternly rebuked. (Cullen Commission, pg. 117)
  • In 2010, Larry Vander Graaf, Former RCMP, Former Executive Director of Investigations for Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, met in person with and warned Coleman directly that players were bringing bundles of cash in $20 bills into casinos. (Global News)

In addition to de Jong, eight other current BC Liberals sat in cabinets that refused to act on money laundering, including interim leader Shirley Bond.

The BC NDP government has taken significant action to take on money laundering, including requiring proof of the source of cash of $10,000 or more, and putting regulators into large casinos around the clock.