For the week of Feb. 14, 2021:
Walter Soo, a vice-president of Great Canadian Gaming until 2019, testified Feb. 9 at the Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering in B.C.
Soo was the key executive who turned River Rock Casino Resort into a destination for high-rollers from China. He had worked his way up from Great Canadian’s Pacific National Exhibition Fair table games in the early 1980s.
Under cross-examination by commission lawyer Kyle McCleery, Soo described how River Rock’s business benefitted from geopolitical shifts across the Pacific Ocean, where Macau became China’s answer to Las Vegas, and Canada’s hunger to attract millionaire migrants with fast-track visas and passports.
“For years overlapping, from 2005-2012, these people just kept flowing in,” Soo said. “It may sound crude, but they washed up on shore.”
Ultimately, River Rock boomed in the wake of Xi Jinping’s struggle to purge the Chinese Communist Party of foes. Gamblers who frequented Macau made their way to Richmond.
Some of them raised the eyebrows of police and regulators in B.C. But the commission is hearing how the BC Liberal government of the day turned a blind eye to widespread money laundering in favour of profits.
Listen to highlights of Soo’s testimony on this edition.
Plus headlines from the Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest.
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