Cullen Commission’s report on its inquiry into money laundering activities across British Columbia casinos and real estate sectors has finally been released to the public. The commission concludes that money washing reached extremely high levels, due to ineffective efforts by the RCMP, politicians, and regulators. However, it did not find evidence of corruption.
The commission was headed by former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen. It was tasked by the local government to determine whether the alleged money laundering activities of millions of Canadian dollars have taken place in the gambling and real estate sectors by organized Chinese crime groups, and to provide input on how to prevent them in the future.
Billions of Dirty Money Washed
The long-awaited report by the province report was released on Wednesday this week by Commissioner Cullen. He stated that billions of illicit assets that originated from organized crime and drug trade have flown and impacted real estate, gaming, and luxury vehicle industries in the province. He added that the former Liberal government and the BCLC were aware of the suspicious cash but they did not demonstrate enough will to oppose it.
Mr. Cullen elaborated that the government took steps toward tackling the issue but they were not sufficient. According to the report, ex-B.C. gaming ministers Rich Coleman, Mike de Jong, Shirley Bond, and ex-premier Christy Clark all undertook some anti-money laundering actions, but with limited results. All four of them testified at the inquiry but explained that their actions were based on the best information they had at the time.
In May 2021, the former gaming minister Mr. Coleman was summoned to make his second round of testimony to the inquiry. This time he was questioned about his comments from 2011 when he addressed statements from RCMP inspector Barry Baxter. Current Attorney General David Eby has also spoken at the inquiry and said that he wants explanations from members of the former government.
The report also states that there is no evidence that any of these individuals have willingly encouraged, facilitated, or permitted money laundering to happen as a way of receiving personal benefit advantage of financial or political form. The inquiry listened to testimony for over 133 days from almost 200 witnesses, including politicians, government officials, law enforcement, academics, and experts on the matter.
In conclusion, the report made 101 recommendations and urges the B.C. legislation to create an office of an independent commissioner to focus on anti-money laundering measures, as well as force casinos to lower the limit to CA$3,000 for requiring proof of a gambler’s source of funds. Since the report also describes that individuals were carrying large bags of cash into Vancouver-area casinos.
Criticizing the RCMP
The commission states that there was no sustained effort from the RCMP to look into the money laundering activities in the province. Between 2015 and 2020, the police conducted only two significant money washing investigations that progressed to the charge-approval stage. In response to that, the RCMP said that it will review the report and claimed that it fully participated in the inquiry.
Source: Meissner, Dirk “Money laundering report points to government, RCMP failures, but finds no corruption”, Toronto Star, June 15, 2022