Two money laundering whistleblowers say they are disappointed with the findings of the investigation into the pervasiveness of the crime and possible links to corruption in British Columbia.
The Cullen Commission’s final report, released Wednesday, looked at organized crime money filtering through the province’s casinos, real estate industry and elsewhere.
Although it concluded that the BC government, police and the federal anti-money laundering agency had not done enough to stop the crime, the 1,800-page report did not no evidence of corruption detected. The commission identified “staggering” levels of money laundering and what Cullen himself described as an “unwillingness” to deal with it.
“People have to go to jail for this,” Fred Pinnock, former commander of the RCMP’s Illegal Gambling Task Force, told Global News.
“I was hoping there would have been support for criminal investigations to result from this exercise. I don’t see that happening and I don’t see the bad actors who gave rise to this money laundering nightmare being held accountable to the extent that they should be.
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Pinnock led British Columbia’s Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team, responsible for monitoring illegal casinos, from 2005 to 2008. He testified at the commission hearings that he repeatedly expressed the need to extend the unit’s mandate to BC Lottery Corporation casinos and presented a business case for the unit to target organized crime in government casinos.
There was little interest in his idea, he said in an earlier interview, and he was effectively sidelined by RCMP leaders and retired. His unit was disbanded by the BC Liberals in 2009.
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In an exclusive interview on Thursday, Pinnock said he was “reassured” to know that, years after he first spoke out in 2006, others would come forward to share his perspective on the extent of the problem.
“I was not motivated by anything other than a desire to contribute more to public safety by volunteering to be a witness or, hopefully, assent to the commission,” he said.
“I hope history will show that the public has been well served by it. The case is still pending for me.
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While official participants in the investigation received legal representation to protect themselves from reputational risk, Pinnock said he did not have a fully funded lawyer as a testifying whistleblower. Had he done so, he said, there would have been more rigorous cross-examination of “bad actors” and perhaps “bushels full of additional evidence” that the commissioner could have considered.
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“It looked like an uneven playing field. It was like we were in the ring with one hand tied behind our backs,” he said.
“I did my best to identify possible leads so that the commission knew who was responsible, and I was rather surprised by the line of questioning on several occasions.”
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Another whistleblower, Muriel LaBine, said she supported the commission’s 101 recommendations but thought some might be difficult to implement.
The inquiry called on the province to create an independent commissioner to focus on combating money laundering, amend the Mortgage Brokers Act and Real Estate Services Regulation, and force casinos to lowering the threshold to $3,000 to require proof of a player’s source of funds.
“It failed the most when he didn’t talk more about the revenue generated by casinos and how casino officials affected their revenue,” said LaBine, who worked as a dealership supervisor in the years 1990. for the Great Canadian Gaming casino in Richmond.
“Casino executives have stock options, and when revenue goes up, stocks go up [and] they are able to develop further.
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LaBine said she would see young men — loan sharks, she believed — bring customers with them and pass wads of $20 bills and casino chips to baccarat players. She thought that the crumpled paper money, wrapped in rubber bands, probably didn’t come from a bank.
In 2019, she went public, sharing her handwritten diary of casino notes and BC Gaming Commission revenue documents that appeared to record the exact moment Macau-style money laundering exploded in the province.
The Cullen Commission’s final report painted a similar picture, describing people arriving at Vancouver-area casinos with large bags of cash, usually in $20 bills. He also reported a new figure: BC casinos accepted $1.2 billion in cash transactions of $10,000 or more in 2014 alone.
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The discovery of the lack of evidence of corruption came as a “shock,” Labine said, given how long money laundering has been a problem and how few successive governments and police agencies Colombia has had. British were able to suppress it. She called the “unwillingness” described by Cullen “nonsense” and a “ridiculous statement.”
“I felt betrayed,” she said in an interview. “For it to last 20 years and they turn a blind eye to it? It’s very, very hard to reconcile with that – there’s no payoff anywhere along the line.
LaBine also said more scrutiny should have been done on political donations to government parties from casino owners, service providers and staff.
“We cannot allow this to happen again,” she said. “We’ll put safeguards, we’ll put roadblocks – that doesn’t mean the bad guys won’t find a way around the roadblocks, so we have to be vigilant and be careful.”
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RCMP said in a statement that they are reviewing Cullen’s report and are fully participating in the investigation.
British Columbia Attorney General David Eby said he was sure his colleagues in Ottawa would be disappointed by the failures of the federal money laundering regime described in the report. The provincial government will work on the recommended reforms, he added.
– with files from am Cooper and The Canadian Press
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