Two British Columbia gaming regulators who linked money laundering in the province’s casinos to a 2014 murder that remains unsolved were fired from their jobs shortly after filing their report, documents seen by CTV News reveal.
In September 2014, 29-year-old Birinder Khangura was found shot to death in his truck in the city of Surrey. Witnesses in the area reported seeing a white Pontiac Montana minivan leave the scene, which was later found burned out around ten miles away.
No one has ever been charged in the killing, but a month later the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch’s Senior Director Joe Schalk wrote that it was one of two incidents that “added to the concern of suspicious cash being brought into BC casinos.”
In December 2014, Schalk and a colleague were fired without cause. Schalk told CTV last summer he believed they were dismissed because they were making too much noise about the province’s money-laundering epidemic and they “needed to be quieted.”
Following a change of provincial government in 2016, BC’s new attorney general, David Eby, found that reports related to the money laundering problem had been hushed up by the previous administration.
According to a recent report by Global News, regulators now believe that as much as $1.7 billion could have filtered through the casino system via corporate high roller accounts, facilitated by underground banks with ties to drug money and organized crime.
Money laundering was so rife, in fact, that the global intelligence community had taken to referring to this kind of underground banking operation as “the Vancouver Model.”
CTV reports that the documents it obtained this week under the Freedom of Information Act were heavily redacted and so it’s unclear exactly why Schalk suspected Khangura’s death was linked to money-laundering networks.
One of Khangura’s relatives told CTV she hadn’t heard from police in years, although they confirmed this week they were still investigating the case.
Why were they fired? Were they fired because of this report? This has an appearance of ‘shoot the messenger’ from the government about concerns being raised about money laundering, loan sharking and organized crime in casinos,” former prosecutor Sandy Garossino told CTV. “It’s blood cash. It’s blood money.”
In January, it was revealed that what would have been Canada’s biggest ever money laundering trial had been dropped because federal prosecutors had accidently sent the name of a secret informant to a lawyer for the defense.
Prosecutors concluded the informant would be placed at “high risk of death” if the case against an alleged underground bank with links to the drugs trade were to proceed.