When he was the minister responsible for gambling, BC Liberal leadership hopeful Mike de Jong ordered the B.C. Lottery Corporation to provide him with quarterly reports about the Crown corporation’s anti-money laundering efforts.
Did that ever happen?
Were they deleted or just not written down?
On Oct. 11, 2017, theBreaker asked, under the freedom of information law, the ministries of Finance, Attorney General and Solicitor General for copies of the quarterly reports on implementation of the government’s anti-money laundering strategy since Oct. 1, 2016.
De Jong’s Jan. 29, 2016 mandate letter to the BCLC board explicitly required the Crown corporation to deliver quarterly reports on anti-money laundering and mitigation of related illegal activities.
None of the three ministries could apparently find the reports, or related briefing notes, so they referred theBreaker’s request to BCLC.
Finally, on Dec. 21, 2017, BCLC released 65 pages of Powerpoint presentations; only 14 pages dealt specifically with anti-money laundering. They were censored by BCLC to protect advice, recommendations, intergovernmental relations and personal information, and for fear of harm to law enforcement and BCLC finances. BCLC claimed it has another 181 pages that it is withholding in full, for fear of harm to law enforcement.
Four of the pages were contained in a general July 31, 2017 briefing presentation about all aspects of BCLC’s operation, which saw net income balloon more than 1,000% in two decades, from $113 million in 1996 to $1.33 billion in 2017.
Only 10 pages came close to being a quarterly report on implementation of the anti-money laundering strategy, but they were dated more than three months after the NDP took over from the BC Liberals. The heavily censored, Oct. 23, 2017 update included headings like “Four challenges with current model” and “Risk mitigation and calls to action.”
There are platitudes such as: “It is critical that we evolve, respond and continually improve” and “The criminal element will find ways around the system if (BCLC-censored, due to advice and recommendations)…”
The final page does mention four items under the heading “BCLC actions and status.”
- The Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch requested all documents and information related to compliance at River Rock Casino Resort; BCLC delivered it Oct. 13.
- A ministerial request was made to investigate a BCLC-censored person or entity.
According to an Oct. 6 response, “BCLC confers with GPEB on who should conduct further investigation. GPEB suggest BCLC should conduct. BCLC will conduct interviews.”
- A meeting was scheduled for Nov. 1, after the ministerial letter from Attorney General David Eby requesting cooperation with Peter German’s review of Lower Mainland casinos.
- Finally, Ernst and Young was “currently conducting” one of BCLC’s annual anti-money laundering audits. “In addition, they are reviewing River Rock’s cheque issuance compliance.”
While de Jong was minister, he suppressed a July 2016 report by consultant MNP to GPEB that said high rollers from China used underground banks to bring large volumes of potentially dirty money to play at Great Canadian Gaming’s Richmond flagship, River Rock Casino Resort. The NDP government released the report last September. It mentioned a flood of $13.5 million in $20 bills in July 2015 at River Rock. MNP also said there were inherent conflicts between regulator GPEB, revenue generator BCLC and the private sector companies, like Great Canadian, that operate the casinos.
In spring 2016, de Jong launched the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team, a unit of the Coordinated Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., funded partly by BCLC. Seven years earlier, however, then-gambling minister Rich Coleman shut down the Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team. On June 13, 2017, JIGIT announced the arrests of nine people in connection with a year-long investigation into a criminal organization linked to China involved in casino money laundering. Charges have not been announced.
BCLC claims it has competition from 2,000 grey market websites that reach B.C., 53 casinos in neighbouring Washington and Las Vegas, a 2.5 hour flight from Vancouver.
“Facilty investments in B.C. have slowed,” the July 31 report said. “Service provider costs have increased over time, particularly for compliance and labour.”
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