The leader of the BC Liberal Party is defending his party’s record on tackling money laundering.
It comes a day after former high-ranking Mountie Peter German released a damning report on money laundering in B.C. casinos, which outlined a “decade of dirty money” that occurred under the Liberals’ tenure.
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Following the report’s release, BC NDP Attorney General David Eby slammed the Liberals, saying they had “many opportunities” to address the issue.
Speaking with CKNW’s The Jon McComb Show, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson denied that his party ignored the problem while in government.
“My understanding, John, is it was a rolling ball. There were a number of efforts to crack down on this,” he said.
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Wilkinson said following a ministerial investigation into the problem in 2011, the Liberal government decided to “ramp it up” and instituted a new anti-money laundering procedure but found it was insufficient by 2015.
He said that led to the creation of a new Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team in 2016.
“My understanding is that has driven down the suspicious transactions by 60 per cent. We all want it to go to zero. And that, Mr. German, in his report, considered that to be a success and thought it should stay in operation, and that we should continue to pursue that.”
German’s report, however, highlighted money-laundering problems going back well into the early 2000s.
In 2009, the BC Liberal government disbanded the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET) — a police unit dedicated specifically to targeting crime in the gaming sector.
The report noted debate over the unit’s effectiveness, including concerns about training and resources.
However, German also pointed to another report covering the years 2005-2008, released shortly before the unit was disbanded, which found that there had been 284 gaming incidents reported, four murders, one attempted murder and one kidnapping all linked to gaming.
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German’s report noted that “Although the team had made inroads into illegal gaming, the prevailing view in government was that the results did not justify the expenditure.”
“From this point forward, police involvement within casinos occurred, either through calls for service to the police force of jurisdiction, or by RCMP’s proceeds of crime unit,” reads the report.
Wilkinson said the unit was scrapped because it wasn’t effective.
“Well, John, I wasn’t there, and I know that’s not the answer you’re looking for, but here I am, I’m accountable,” he said.
“My understanding is that in 2009, they did come to the conclusion that the process wasn’t working… and they revamped it in 2011.
“The large-scale money laundering became apparent to the BCLC and gaming policy enforcement folks, there was an investigation… and found that money laundering was in fact happening, and they put together a program to attempt to curtail cash transactions — I gather that didn’t work.”
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Pressed on why Rich Coleman — then minister responsible for gaming — took no public action following comments to the CBC in 2011 by an RCMP crime expert about dirty money flowing into casinos, Wilkinson said the government didn’t want to alert criminals about its enforcement plans.
“ said there was a series of decisions made, there was a bit of a rolling ball to make sure the resources were in place. The bad guys are pretty smart, they keep moving. They hadn’t been successful at getting the prosecutions. They had to keep adjusting the system to get those prosecutions,” he said.
“Let’s remember Rich Coleman sits in an office in Victoria or Langley, and he doesn’t go and meet criminals and hang around casinos prosecuting people and collecting intelligence, that’s the job of police.”
Wilkinson said he accepts the 48 recommendations in Peter German’s report, and that his party will support them.
But he went on to criticize the NDP for also failing to crack down on money laundering, saying the Liberals will “hold their feet to the fire.”
“Let’s see the perpetrators being marched into the courtroom to be prosecuted by Crown counsel. That’s the hard measure of success,” Wilkinson said.
“I’ve got to say with all the foofaraw that David Eby has created around a report from Mr. German that’s actually pretty measured, we haven’t seen a single prosecution, have we?”
Speaking with CKNW’s the Simi Sara Show on Thursday, Eby said that two investigations into money laundering are currently active.
Back in May, the RCMP arrested and deported Chinese national Dan Bui Shun Jin at the River Rock Casino on allegations of international money laundering.
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