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HomeBusinessExclusive: B.C. government liquor stores ban cash transactions over $5,000

Exclusive: B.C. government liquor stores ban cash transactions over $5,000

(BCLDB)
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Bob Mackin

The B.C. Liquor Distribution Branch suddenly banned cash transactions over $5,000, four days after hosting the annual high-end spirits promotion where products were going for as much as $200,000.(BCLDB)

In a Nov. 17 memo, Blain Lawson, CEO of the Crown agency, announced the change applicable to both retail and hospitality industry customers.

No reason was given, although employees at one of the highest-revenue stores were concerned about money laundering in 2015.

“Effective immediately, BC Liquor Stores will no longer accept any cash transactions of $5,000. Transactions over $5,000 must be made using credit or debit card only,” said Lawson’s memo, which was leaked to theBreaker.news.

Neither Lawson nor director of retail operations Jonathan Castaneto responded to theBreaker.news. The Ministry of Finance, which oversees liquor sales, forwarded theBreaker.news query to the LDB communications department, which said management was too busy handling supply chain issues related to the Nov. 18-declared provincial state of emergency.

The $200,000 featured product at the LDB’s 2021 Premium Sales promotion on Nov. 13. (BCLDB)

The memo stated the $5,000-and-up cash ban was an interim measure while LDB reviews its current large cash transaction policy. There was no previous cash limit, only steps to take if an employee believed a transaction of more than $10,000 was suspicious.

“Please note, if a customer asks for their purchases to be divided into multiple transactions but the total cash received for their transactions exceeds $5,000 Canadian (or equivalent), this group of transactions is collectively a Large Cash Transaction and this policy still applies,” said the Nov. 17 policy note.

LDB hosted its annual Premium Release promotion on Nov. 13, targeted to well-heeled collectors of rare, high-end whiskeys. It held an online draw for the privilege to purchase scarce products, including a $200,000 Dalmore Decades No. 4 Collection Set 19 and $38,000 bottle of GlenDronach 50-year-old.

Draw winners were told to pick-up and pay for purchases only at the Cambie and 39th Avenue store in Vancouver’s Oakridge neighbourhood.

A manager at that location in May 2015 contacted head office after workers became concerned about suspicious large transactions over $10,000. An LDB senior investigator told the workers to report concerns to management, not to police or FINTRAC, the federal financial intelligence unit, according to email leaked to the then-opposition NDP.

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