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Bob Mackin

B.C. Lottery Corporation’s director of anti-money laundering and investigations has quit amid a money laundering scandal involving casinos catering to high rollers from China, theBreaker has learned.

Ross Alderson’s LinkedIn profile shows he left BCLC in December. “Looking for new opportunities. Looking for a new challenge in 2018,” he wrote.

Ex-BCLC director Alderson (LinkedIn)

Alderson was the main law enforcement liaison officer between BCLC and the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team. He did not respond to theBreaker’s request for comment.

theBreaker asked BCLC spokeswoman Laura Piva-Babcock about Alderson’s departure. A reply came from a person at BCLC who signed the media relations email as Lara, with no last name, confirming that Alderson had resigned. She declined to comment on the reason, but said John Karlovcec had taken over on an interim basis. 

Alderson oversaw BCLC’s anti-money laundering program from May 2015 to December 2017. Between 2012 and 2015, he managed investigations and security for BCLC’s PlayNow sports betting and poker website. 

Alderson’s profile says he was an officer in the Victoria Police Force in Melbourne, Australia from 2001 to 2009.

In its July 2016 report about Richmond’s River Rock Casino Resort, suppressed by the BC Liberals but released last fall by the NDP, MNP found there were inherent conflicts between regulator Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, revenue generator BCLC and the private sector companies that operate the casinos, like River Rock owner Great Canadian Gaming. 

A copy of the BCLC’s anti-money laundering chronology says that its information-sharing agreement with the RCMP was suspended at the request of the GPEB in 2016 “without notice or consultation with BCLC.” 

“BCLC objected and consulted with RCMP who reinstated. However the (censored by BCLC) between Nov 2016 and Sep 2017 effectively crippling BCLC’s ability to proactively ban organized crime figures.”

Meanwhile, there are still no charges after a June 13, 2017 announcement by the JIGIT/Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit that it arrested nine people. The anti-gang police said they busted an organized crime ring with links to China that was laundering large amounts of money through B.C. casinos. Sgt. Brenda Winpenny told theBreaker on Jan. 8 “when charges are approved, we will put out a release to the media to advise.” She said Crown counsel has not yet received the disclosure package.

Related to the investigation, B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office applied last year to seize a $5 million farmland mansion on Sidaway Road in Richmond that operated as an illegal casino. 

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Bob Mackin B.C. Lottery Corporation’s director of anti-money

theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin takes a deep dive into his crystal ball to deliver predictions for 2018, and more, on the first edition of the new year. 

 

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Predictions for 2018
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theBreaker.news Podcast host Bob Mackin takes a

Bob Mackin

A Happy New Year, indeed, at the Tieleman-Ross household.

That their party, the NDP, returned to power in 2016 in British Columbia was only one cause for popping corks. 

NDP insiders Shirley Ross (left) and Bill Tieleman. (Facebook)

Two of part-time pundit, most-of-the-time lobbyist Bill Tieleman’s clients — International Union of Operating Engineers Local 115 and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union Local 1611 — inked a project labour agreement with the Aecon/Flatiron/Dragados/EBC consortium chosen to build the generating station and spillways at BC Hydro’s Site C dam. Tieleman applauded Premier John Horgan’s Dec. 11 decision to continue building the BC Liberal megaproject.

Tieleman boasts 15 lobbying clients, according to the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists. Tieleman also Facebooked a winning $107 plus free play ticket on Lotto Max. 

Meanwhile, wife Shirley Ross was named by Health Minister Adrian Dix to the board of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. through 2019. It doesn’t say it on the College’s website, but theBreaker has confirmed that Ross will be paid at least $1,064-per-day for attending board meetings, plus expenses. The board is scheduled to meet 10 times in 2018. It is comprised of 10 members elected by doctors and five appointed by the minister. Former BC Liberal cabinet minister Barry Penner sits on the board until September 2019, as per a 2016 order by then-Health Minister Terry Lake. 

A prepared statement attributed to Dix, and sent to theBreaker by ministry spokeswoman Kristy Anderson, said: “Shirley Ross is an excellent choice for this position. Ms. Ross brings experience in communications, education, and advocacy for the B.C. Nurses Union to her appointment. She has acted as community developer and community health nurse for the Vancouver Health Board, Global Health Project Director for Oxfam Canada, and general duty nurse in various acute care hospitals across B.C., Alberta, and Manitoba. I am confident that her education and experience will be an asset to the College of Physicians and Surgeons Board.”

Elections BC shows Ross donated $7,390 to the NDP since 2005, while Tieleman gave $16,437.

Will the last Visionista left, please turn out the lights? 

Nimmi Takkar

Vancouver’s next civic election is Oct. 20 and the party that has dominated city hall since 2008 is looking for a new executive director.

In the first NDP cabinet order of 2018, Vision Vancouver’s interim executive director, Namrata “Nimmi” Takkar, was named the $94,500-a-year senior ministerial assistant to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. Takkar had been doing double duty as manager of client development, research and engagement with Stratcom, the Vision and NDP polling firm. Vision’s office is on the same floor in the Chip Wilson-owned building. 

Party co-chair Maria Dobrinskya told theBreaker: “Vision Vancouver is in the process of hiring new staff in preparation for 2018 election.” 

Takkar became interim executive director of Vision Vancouver when Stepan Vdovine quit to work in the NDP transition; he was the $94,500-a-year senior ministerial assistant for Tourism Minister Lisa Beare until October. His wife, former aide to Gregor Robertson Mira Oreck, is the $120,000-a-year director of stakeholder relations in the Vancouver cabinet office. Vdovine reactivated his Square One Strategic Counsel (Sq1 Counsel) consultancy in November, registering the Sq1Counsel.ca website, which redirects to his LinkedIn profile. 

Niki Sharma, the former Park Board chair who failed to win a council seat in 2014, is the ministerial assistant for the Minister of State for Childcare, hired at $84,000-a-year. Katie Robb quit as Robertson’s press secretary to join Government Communications and Public Engagement as the communications director for transportation and infrastructure minister Claire Trevena. 

They all followed their pied piper, Geoff Meggs. The veteran Vision Vancouver city councillor quit to become Horgan’s $195,000-a-year chief of staff last summer.

Robertson leads a caucus of six Vision members on the 11-seat city council. Vision’s candidate in the October 2017 by-election to replace Meggs finished in fifth. 

Bob Mackin A Happy New Year, indeed,

Bob Mackin

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. 

Ex-gambling minister de Jong wants to lead the BC Liberals. (Facebook)

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. 

    From BCLC’s October 2017 intrenal presentation on anti-money laundering. (BCLC)

    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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BCLC 17-071 BCLC Anti-Money Laundering Reports (or lack thereof) by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin When he was the minister responsible

The moment that 2016 became 2017, the button was pushed to launch theBreaker, your fresh source for news, opinion and analysis of British Columbia issues, institutions and influencers. 

Now, one year and 279 stories later, it is time to celebrate with the latest podcast and thank you for reading. 

In the first anniversary edition of theBreaker.news Podcast, host Bob Mackin counts down theBreaker’s 10 most-popular stories of 2017. Many were related to the epic 2017 B.C. provincial election and its aftermath. 

theBreaker broke these stories: 

  • Laura Miller’s June 13 resignation from the BC Liberal Party. 
  • The secret, 15-minute BC Hydro board meeting on the eve of the election campaign to rubber stamp an increase for the Peace River Hydro Partners’ main civil works contract. 
  • The discovery in the Paradise Papers of B.C. Investment Management Corporation’s investment in Bermuda-listed China Homes Ltd. 
  • The dead KPMG executive who was “donating” to the BC Liberals for years after his cancer death. 
  • The 20-acre East Richmond farm assessed for less than $85,000 that sold for $9.2 million to a Chinese investor. 
  • The BC Liberal election post-mortem that heaped blame on Christy Clark.
  • Patronage appointee Gordon Wilson’s $600-a-day LNG cheerleading gig. 
  • A consultant’s damning report on Nanaimo Regional General Hospital mismanagement. 
  • The mystery around who really owns Clark’s Dunbar dwelling. 
  • And the inside story of the pivotal Penticton caucus retreat, where Darryl Plecas stood up to Clark, who subsequently quit politics. 

Keep following theBreaker in 2018. Join theBreaker and support enterprise journalism for as low as $2 a month, click here. 

News tips are always appreciated. Click here.

Happy New Year and enjoy the first anniversary podcast! 

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theBreaker.news Podcast 1st Anniversary Edition: Happy New Year!
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The moment that 2016 became 2017, the

Fill up the egg nog mug, don your Christmas sweater and cozy up to your device. Join host Bob Mackin for a special edition of theBreaker.news Podcast for Christmas 2017.

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theBreaker.news Podcast: Merry Christmas
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Fill up the egg nog mug, don

Bob Mackin

Opening night at Parq casino (Parq)

Less than an hour after its opening ceremony, Parq Vancouver casino recorded its first suspicious transaction. 

An incident report to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch from casino security shows that “(Identity censored by government) bought in $30,000 all in $100s at Salon Jade West” at 11:51 p.m. on Sept. 29.

Salon Jade West is one of two high roller gambling rooms on the third floor of the controversial $600 million gambling palace beside B.C. Place Stadium.

Three more incidents happened before the casino was even 24 hours old. An unspecified cheat at play incident was reported at 4:01 a.m. Sept. 30. At 8:33 p.m., another suspicious transaction: A gambler, whose name was censored, bought-in for $10,000 with 500 $20 bills. Less than 90 minutes later, at 10 p.m., “(Identity censored) bought in for $9,980 in $20 bills.”

The Ministry of Attorney General disclosed 17 incident reports during Parq’s first week to the theBreaker, under the freedom of information law. Eleven of the incidents involved gamblers who were denied entry or asked to leave the premises because of temporary B.C. Lottery Corporation bans. Some of the prohibitions stretch into 2021. Parq’s predecessor, Edgewater Casino at the nearby Plaza of Nations, reported 26 incidents during its final week of operations, and those reports were also released to theBreaker. Sixteen incidents involved player prohibitions.

The biggest suspicious transaction during Edgewater’s final week was Sept. 23 at 9:25 p.m., when a person, whose identity was censored, “bought in for $10,000 (20 x $100 and 400 x $20).” 

On Sept. 28, at 5:39 p.m., a gambler “passed $5,000 in $100 bills” to another person. 

Documents also show that a threat was made against a security guard at 2:12 p.m. on Sept. 22, a patron spat at a security guard on Sept. 24 at 1:55 p.m., and a BCLC employee suffered a theft at 3:49 a.m. on Sept. 25. 

Police were not called to investigate any of those incidents.

The Ministry of Attorney General deferred comment to BCLC, which took almost three days to respond. The Crown corporation’s communications department said the person who made the threat against the security guard was banned for nine months and the person who spat at a security guard was banned for 12 months. 

BCLC did not explain why police were not called. It said it is the casino’s obligation to notify WorkSafeBC if the incidents met WorkSafeBC reporting criteria. 

As for the theft, BCLC said the victim was actually a BCLC contractor and the item stolen was an impact drill. 

“The individual who stole the drill departed the casino and was not identified,” said the Crown corporation. “The BCLC contractor declined police involvement. The value of the stolen good was approximately $100 to $200.”

Parq spokeswoman Tamara Hicks did not address any of theBreaker’s questions. By email, she said “all incidents are reported to BCLC and GPEB as per our protocols and were in alignment with policies and procedures.”

The denomination of choice at Vancouver casinos. (Bank of Canada)

The only time during the period that police were called was Sept. 25 for an 8:15 p.m. incident at Edgewater in which a person “made comments about losing money and past suicidal tendencies.”

In April 2011, the Vision Vancouver majority city council allowed Paragon to move its 600 slot machine, 75 gambling table licence from the Plaza of Nations to the new complex. It rejected an application to expand the licence to 1,500 slots and 150 tables. 

Eighteen veteran police officers with experience investigating gambling-related crime opposed the relocation and expansion proposal in 2011. Their letter to city council highlighted the risk of increased organized crime and gambling addiction that would result from the new casino. 

Peter German, a law professor at the University of B.C. and former head of the RCMP in Western Canada, was hired by Attorney General David Eby in September to review money laundering at Metro Vancouver casinos. Eby adopted his first recommendations in early December: more rigorous vetting of cash and bearer bond deposits over $10,000 and round-the-clock staffing by GPEB investigators at casinos. 

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Sec 86 GPEB Reports Parq by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin [caption id="attachment_5337" align="alignright" width="497"] Opening night

Bob Mackin

An undisclosed number of $5,000 poker chips went missing at River Rock Casino Resort and the Great Canadian Gaming flagship casino worried it wouldn’t have enough for Chinese new year in 2016, according to a Postmedia report. 

Only at a casino, can chips be as slippery as fish. 

theBreaker obtained a copy of an incident report submitted by River Rock to the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch from Sept. 25, which said that an unnamed individual “took $585 chips that belong to other person” during the noon hour.

The staff member who filled out the form did not tick the boxes to indicate whether or not police were called or attended. 

Neither B.C. Lottery Corporation nor the Ministry of the Attorney General responded by theBreaker’s deadline. 

A statement about the incident sent to theBreaker from Great Canadian Gaming said “police were not called based on a request from the player who had their money recovered after our surveillance team had identified who had taken it. The player that took it was barred.”

Meanwhile, Great Canadian’s stock is up again, after Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. chose Great Canadian and Clairvest to operate Casino Brantford, and OLG Slots at the Mohawk Racetrack, Flamboro Downs and Grand River Raceway. 

Great Canadian shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange closed at $34.15 on Dec. 20. They traded at $35.32 on Sept. 18, before tumbling to a fall low of $29.22 on Nov. 10 amid sensational headlines about money laundering by Chinese high rollers at River Rock

Share prices had climbed after the August announcement that OLG chose Great Canadian and Brookfield Business Partners to operate Great Blue Heron Casino and OLG Slots at Woodbine and Ajax Downs racetracks.

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Bob Mackin An undisclosed number of $5,000

Bob Mackin 

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal case against a Richmond strata council that holds Mandarin-only meetings has the green light to be heard. 

In a Dec. 13 written decision, tribunal member Walter Rilkoff rejected the Wellington Court strata council’s application to dismiss the action, and said that the policy to conduct business in Mandarin effectively turned the strata council into a “closed shop.” 

“Realistically [it is] not open to non‐Mandarin speakers who wish to be part of the governance of the strata,” Rilkoff wrote. “In turn that can have the longer‐term effect of closing off living in the strata to the majority of people who do not speak Mandarin.”

Rilkoff noted the threshold is low for a discrimination complaint to proceed to a hearing. The complainant need only show that the supporting evidence is not conjecture or speculation.

“This is not a decision that this complaint will succeed. Rather it is that on a preliminary basis, and on the basis of the information before me, I am unable to determine that it has no reasonable prospect of success.”

Andreas Kargut went public in late 2015 about the Wellington Court strata council shunning those who could speak only English. His complaint, on behalf of nine owners at Wellington Court, alleges that the strata council and then-president Ed Mao discriminated against the owners on the basis of their race, by holding strata meetings in Mandarin and allowing the use of proxy voters. 

Karguts left Richmond, but didn’t give up the fight for equality. (Facebook)

In its submissions to the tribunal, the strata council denied the discrimination allegations. It said it was “more efficient” to do business in Mandarin, the language that all strata council members and a majority of townhouse owners could speak. 

Mao resigned shortly after the complaint. Kargut and his family moved last summer to Vernon.

The decision notes the dilemma that neither the Strata Property Act nor the Bylaws specify in what language the meeting must be held or the minutes be kept. Before 2014, Wellington Court meetings were held in English only and minutes kept in English. But in successive annual general meetings, Mandarin-speaking owners were voted to council, many by proxy holders.

“A stated purpose of the [Human Rights] Code, to foster a society in British Columbia in which there are no impediments to full and free participation in the economic, social, political, and cultural life of this province, is engaged,” Rilkoff wrote. 

“A situation where owners who do not speak a foreign language, but speak one of Canada’s official languages and the lingua franca of this province, are precluded from full participation in the governance of their homes, is not likely to be found to eliminate barriers, but to erect them. Where that distinction is based on what may be appear to be racial or ethnic divisions, the situation may be found to violate the Code.”

The decision said complaints are usually made by a minority or marginalized group, which may have suffered historical discrimination. Discrimination by the minority against members of the majority group, Rilkoff wrote, “is no more acceptable just because that group has obtained a majority in a particular enclave. Within the universe of the strata, the Kargut group may well be a minority.”

A majority of owners are Mandarin speakers, the decision said, but “Wellington Court is not, and cannot be, a closed community open only to people of one ethnic group. Any owner is free to sell their unit to anyone and anyone is entitled to purchase a unit. That buyer in turn is entitled to meaningfully participate in the strata’s governance.

“By the same token, a majority of the owners are Mandarin speakers, although it may be only a few who do not have a facility with English. In those circumstances, it may be unlikely that the complainant group could obtain a remedy, even if wholly successful, that provides for all strata council meetings to be conducted in English only. The Strata may be under an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to the Mandarin speakers.”

Last summer, Kargut told theBreaker that he made the difficult decision to accept a job transfer and to move his family to Vernon because Wellington Court “was no longer a home, it was just a place where we lived.” He said there was harmony at the townhouse complex, until proxy votes were used to systematically replace English-speaking owners on strata council with those who spoke Mandarin. 

In an interview after the tribunal decision, Kargut said that he “couldn’t keep up the fight, pay the costs of the fight and still live in Richmond, have a mortgage, and also have to deal with the stress of a bunch of people that put a lot of effort into showing that we were unwanted around any of them.” He said it has cost his group $45,000 in legal fees so far. 

The strata council, Kargut said, “shot itself in the foot” by not resolving at the 2016 annual general meeting to translate all council meetings to English. A date for a hearing has not been set and Kargut expects it could take months to happen. 

“The future of our official languages is at stake, every Canadian would have an interest at stake here.”

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Bob Mackin  The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal