British Columbia has been embroiled in a scandal of its own for the past two years or so. The province is facing allegations that the government knowingly turned a blind eye to money laundering in casinos several years back.
British Columbia’s Probe into Casino Corruption Rages On
Commenting on the issue, former B.C. finance minister Mike de Jong argued that the allegations mounted against the province were “offensive,” missing to mention the fact that Ross Alderson, the former director of anti-money laundering (AML) at the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has been missing since March.
Alderson was the key witness and main whistleblower in the case against the alleged corruption in BCLC and the province. De Jong, though, argued vehemently the accusations against the government were unfounded and frustrating.
The province made significant efforts to understand organized crime during his stint as head of gaming between 2013 and 2017, De Jong stated on Friday. The matter is probed by the Cullen Commission set up for the purposes of addressing the issue that was brought up by the now missing Alderson.
According to investigators who appeared in front of the commission, they had suspected for years prior that organized crime groups had been issuing cash loans to high-roller gamblers and leveraging various money laundering schemes to move money around.
Some speakers suggested that de Jong’s predecessor was well aware of the practices, but had shifted his priority to maxing out gambling revenue and not targeting criminal organizations.
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In the context of the revenue that BCLC contributes to the revenue, or $1.4 billion, that is not entirely surprising even if the truthfulness of the statement is subject to a broader debate that only the commission is able to verify.
De Jong did not hesitate to argue that he first became more seriously involved with the issue in 2015 when he met with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) and the BCLC and that the teams had worked together to tackle the issue of organized crime in gambling.
Various government figures appeared during the Friday hearing, with interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond who was in charge of gambling back in 2011, arguing that she had issued nine recommendations during her stint but had not delivered the tenth, a task force.
The now missing Alderson was a proponent of seeing a task force through and taking much tougher action on organized crime and the alleged money-laundering going on there. He is still AWOL.
Previously, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer Fred Pinnock accused former British Columbia minister Rich Coleman as complicit with criminal organizations in matters of gambling.