Horror stories of blind eyes turned to explicit financial crimes, a culture of tolerance towards money laundering, dodgy casino dealings, loan sharking, and even prominent figures in Crown corporation positions being actively involved in the protection of high-rolling criminals and extortionists – such was the nature of the testimonies this week heard by the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia. The Cullen Commission of Inquiry is investigating money laundering in British Columbia.
The commission has only just recently started their investigation again after having to put it on hold due to the recent election processes in British Columbia. And at this point, after the panel has been operating for less than a full week, it has heard detailed testimonies that can only be described as frightening and eye-opening.
In this case, BCLC is not an innocent party.
The testimony provided by Steve Beeksma, who works as an Anti-Money Laundering Project Specialist for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation, has been particularly important this week.
In his testimony before the inquiry on Monday, Beeksma went into great depth regarding the practices that were formerly followed at the provincial level. These practices have been at the center of the deepening of the dirty money crisis in British Columbia.
Beeksma, a former investigator who was stationed at the contentious River Rock Casino and Resort in Richmond, passed on to Commissioner Austin Cullen his recollections of incidents ranging from orders handed down by top-order management in the BCLC relating to the interviewing of high-rollers being an undesired course of action, all the way through express instructions to turn a blind eye to criminal activities in the interest of showing a profit.
The commission is not likely to place any more weight on the testimony presented on Tuesday than it did on Monday. According to the testimony that was presented on Tuesday by former Richmond RCMP Chief Ward Clapham, during his time serving the local branch of the RCMP, he had received a telephone call from a prominent GCGC executive. During this phone call, said person informed him of the fact that police officer patrols were negatively affecting the casino’s business, and as a result, were undesirable. This information was relayed to him during his time serving the local branch of the RCMP.
The commission also heard how Clapham had started to observe a distinct shift from a community policing point of view immediately after the official opening of the casino. This information was presented to the commission. Clapham stated that what he had observed was an upsurge in a variety of illegal activities, including loan sharking, blackmailing, and physical assault. During the time that Clapham was serving the community in this capacity, he was made aware of the fact that the commission had come to view the River Rock Casino and Resort as a “growing monster.”
Corruption of the Highest Order
The fact that senior members of power were involved in the use of the BCLC in the real fostering of the local money-laundering movement has emerged as a specific repeating theme during this week’s testimonies. This revelation is perhaps the most disturbing of all the revelations that have come to light during this week’s testimony.
According to the testimony that was presented on Tuesday by BCLC casino investigator Stone Lee, it was Terry Towns, who had formerly served as the BCLC’s Vice President of Corporate Security and Compliance, who had ordered a group of casino investigators to “stand down” in 2012 from questioning guests who he considered to be serious gamblers, also known as high rollers.
Stone Lee, who was reportedly stationed at River Rock Casino and Resort during that year, explained to the commission how he had interpreted the order that had been handed down by Towns to have meant that he and his fellow investigators were to immediately stop doing what they were doing by interviewing persons suspected of money laundering. Lee was reportedly stationed at River Rock Casino and Resort during that year.
Rod Baker One that Keeps Coming Up
This week, though, Towns was not the only high-ranking official to be implicated in the scandal. Rod Baker, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC), is a man whose name could be heard continuously being brought up all throughout the proceedings that took place on Monday and Tuesday.
It is stated that Baker had a strong aversion to BCLC authorities, particularly uniformed police officials; in fact, it is said that he would only be seen in the VIP salons of the River Rock Casino. This is one of the claims that has been made about Baker.
The hearings are still going on.