The Deputy Attorney General gave thumbs up for almost 200 court administrators and sheriffs from across B.C. to hold a leadership conference at River Rock Casino Resort, even after the NDP government revealed it was a magnet for whale gamblers from China and dirty money.
Documents obtained exclusively by theBreaker, under the freedom of information law, show that Deputy Minister Richard Fyfe gave approval Oct. 2, 2017 for the Court Services Branch to hold its second annual leadership conference at B.C.’s biggest casino.
“The evaluations from last year were overwhelmingly positive, thus the planning for this year started in spring 2017 and we are set to go Nov. 2 and 3,” wrote assistant deputy minister Lynda Cavanaugh to Connie Richter, Fyfe’s executive operations manager. “My apologies for not obtaining approval from the [Deputy Attorney General] earlier on. Although I have mentioned this to him I neglected to formally request approval, though it is implied in the note above.”
Fyfe’s signature is on a printed copy of Cavanaugh’s email. Cavanaugh had signed the contract with River Rock on July 14, four days before Premier John Horgan was sworn-in.
It is not known whether Attorney General David Eby was consulted or even knew that the Court Services Branch continued to hold the conference at River Rock. Ministry communications staff did not respond by theBreaker’s deadline on Jan. 18.
Fyfe was assistant deputy attorney general in October 2010 when the BC Liberal government agreed to pay the $6 million legal bill for former aides Dave Basi and Bob Virk after their plea bargain halted the BC Rail corruption trial. The attorney general at the time was Mike de Jong, who is running to be leader of the BC Liberals.
On Sept. 22, 2017, Eby released an anti-money laundering report by MNP from July 2016 that had been suppressed by de Jong while he was the minister responsible for gambling promotion and regulation. The report said River Rock had accepted single cash buy-ins of $500,000 from gamblers with no known source of funds.
“Interviews have confirmed that players are indeed wealthy non-residents or business persons with interests both in Vancouver and China, coming to Vancouver to gamble,” said the MNP report. “While the patron may be bona fide, the unsourced cash being accepted by the casino may be associated with criminal activity and poses significant regulatory, business and reputation risk.”
Eby appointed anti-money laundering expert Peter German to review Metro Vancouver casinos. His report is expected in spring.
The documents obtained by theBreaker show that $91,650 was budgeted for the 2017 conference.
A May 16, 2016 briefing note for Fyfe, prepared in advance of that year’s conference, said the last time Court Services Branch held such a gathering was more than nine years previous.
“Holding a leadership event in Richmond, likely close to the airport, will allow for a maximum number of participants to attend said event while mitigating costs,” said the briefing note. “The (2016) conference will be held in September during the Provincial Court Judges’ Conference to mitigate the workload.”
The briefing note said two identical one-day leadership sessions were held over a three day period, to allow half the team to travel and the other half to remain on the job.
The agenda for the 2017 event included an opening welcome from Cavanaugh and B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson and Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree.
In the United States, the General Services Administration spent $1 million on a 2010 Las Vegas conference. The agency’s administrator resigned amid the spending scandal.
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