Cullen Commission Close to Wrapping up BC Casino Investigation

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Apparently, the government of British Columbia (BC) is partially to blame for the money-laundering activity that has taken place at the country’s casinos. That’s part of the takeaway from the still-ongoing Cullen Commission, an investigation into how hundreds of millions of dollars were funneled through several casinos without anyone caring. The investigation is now entering its final phase, with the official conclusions expected to be revealed in about two months.

Canada Partially at Fault for Casino AML Failures

It’s been several years since reports began surfacing that certain casinos in BC were implicit in money laundering activity. On more than a few occasions, huge duffel bags, sometimes holding hundreds of thousands of dollars, were handed over to a cashier at the cashier cage in exchange for chips. However, minutes later, the chips were traded back in for cash, with this cycle continuing for well over a decade.

Certain individuals at all levels of the government and private sectors had some knowledge of what was happening, according to the ongoing Cullen Commission’s findings, but no one did anything to stop it. Yesterday, a lawyer appearing on behalf of employees working for the BC government asserted that the government is partially at fault, as it didn’t offer any whistleblower protection to those who would have otherwise informed the proper authorities.

It isn’t clear how much good having a whistleblower program in place would have done – certain parliamentary figures, police officials and others in the province have been implicated for their involvement. Even after the news finally made it to the front pages over four years ago, certain casinos were still able to continue the exact same practices for which they were being investigated without repercussions.

Still, attorney Jitesh Mistry said during a Cullen Commission hearing yesterday that some employees would have come forward if they had been protected. However, they were reluctant out of fear of being harassed or intimidated. He added, highlighting whistleblower programs in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, “We say if such a regime had existed during the period of inaction and willful blindness, it is quite possible that many of the adverse effects of money laundering would have been mitigated.”

Cullen Commission Drawing to a Close

Since its inception, the Cullen Commission has heard from around 200 people, from as high up as former premier Christy Clark down to front-line employees. The commission is named for Austin Cullen, a Supreme Court justice, who is running the investigation. It began in 2019 and, finally, two years later, is drawing to a close.

Casino lawyers have argued that they have always been in compliance with regulatory requirements and, in some instances, even went beyond their obligations. They cited the installation of surveillance cameras in casino parking lots as an example. However, those cameras caught the large duffel bags being carried into the casinos, yet the casinos apparently never intervened to verify the funds.

The Cullen Commission is now almost ready to wrap up, with the closing submissions expected today. Then, the final report will be provided by December 15.

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