Is British Columbia the most corrupt province in the country? If there was any doubt before, I think it’s been safely removed now.
Former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German’s report into money laundering in the province’s casinos is ground-breaking but also deeply disturbing. It confirms why people are losing faith in the ability of public institutions to safeguard our interests. There has rightly been much talk and focus on the former Liberal government and its failure to address a crime epidemic that many sources warned them about. Less attention has been trained on the police and their ineffectiveness in this sorry drama.
It was evident as far back as 2012 that there were bad things happening inside B.C. casinos, and the River Rock in particular. And in that regard, one passage in Mr. German’s analysis stands out. In it, he’s describing how investigators inside the government’s gaming enforcement branch and officials with the B.C. Lottery Corp., were growing skeptical that efforts to thwart money laundering were actually working.
One agent inside the gaming enforcement branch described in a memo at the time how the River Rock’s VIP room was “full of facilitators,” including inside senior management. What did that mean? It meant they were helping bad guys launder money by knowingly turning a blind eye to their activity. They even stopped reporting suspicious transactions under $50,000.
“In the investigator’s opinion,” Mr. German’s report read, “the matter reached a head in 2012 when the River Rock accepted $100,000 in $20 bills from a patron, who used $3,000 in chips from his pocket to play and then cashed out.” In less time than it takes to run to the store for milk, this guy had cleaned $100,000 in dirty money.
The same guy returned the next day with another $100,000 to launder. And he did. It is now known that no – zero, zilch, nada – transaction was refused by the B.C. Lottery Corp. and its casinos before 2015 despite what was going on. How is that possible?
Many, including myself, have asked: Where was the provincial government? Why wasn’t the solicitor-general at the time, Rich Coleman, all over this? Why wasn’t this issue an urgent priority for the Liberal cabinet of the day? People could see what was going on. These suspicious transactions were being captured on video. And yet, nothing was done.
But at the same time we should ask: Where were the police? People knew years ago that bad guys were showing up at casinos with bags full of illegally obtained money looking to legitimize it. Why weren’t any of these people being arrested and thrown in jail? Instead, this money was allowed to circulate throughout the broader economy and used to begin a horrible escalation in real estate prices and ignite an opioid crisis.
Nice work, police.
The fact that this breakdown by law enforcement, and the RCMP in particular, is underplayed in this report is concerning. And one has to ask the question: did Mr. German let the force off easy because of his association with it?
Let’s be clear: He was the deputy commissioner of the RCMP for western and northern Canada during the period much of this criminal activity was going on. In other words, it happened on his watch. How convenient then this report was to be merely a fact-finding probe and not a fault-finding one. That might have cut a little too close to the bone. It may have implicated people Mr. German knew or even managed at one time. It might have implicated himself.
I would like to know what Mr. German knew personally about what was occurring. I’d like to hear his explanation for the RCMP’s complete abrogation of responsibility in this sorry affair. A community policing office could have protected the public just as well as the RCMP did in this case. And yet all we hear is a lot of rhetoric about internal infighting and turf wars and the general incompetence of government agencies. Well, what about the incompetence of the cops? Everyone’s pointing at the other guy. No one wants to accept responsibility.
Meantime, the corruption that was evident in the casinos was allowed to spread into other sectors of the B.C. economy, having a direct, deleterious impact on the lives of thousands and thousands of innocent people. Unbelievable.
What happened in B.C. is a scandal for the ages and has likely helped make the province the corruption capital of the country. What a well-deserved honour.