Crime

BC Regulator Report Exonerates River Rock Casino From Money Laundering But Journalist Says It’s Flawed

A British Columbia Lottery Corporation report has apparently cleared the River Rock Casino in Richmond of wide-scale money laundering, Global News reports, despite the dirty-cash scandal that has engulfed the Canadian province’s casino sector over the past few years.

The River Rock Casino is said to have been at the epicenter of British Columbia’s money-laundering scandal but a BCLC report finds no evidence, although it appears to be barking up the wrong tree (Image: River Rock Casino)

A separate report commissioned by BC attorney general David Eby and published last year concluded the province’s casinos had become a “laundromat for the proceeds of crime,” with possibly billions of dollars passing through a broken casino system, while management — and the government — turned a blind eye.

But the BCLC report, conducted by Ernst & Young, found there had been “no systemic pattern of money-laundering activity” – at least with regards to cheques coming out of the River Rock.

This, despite the Royal Canadian Mounted Police identifying the casino as being at the epicenter of the problem – having “fostered a culture of accepting large bulk cash transactions,” without inquiring about the source or filing reports to financial investigators.

Nocturnal Drop Offs

In July 2015 alone, the casino was found to have accepted $13.5 million in cash. On one occasion, it accepted nearly half a million dollars in a single transaction, mostly it in $20 bills.

Meanwhile, police have said nocturnal drop offs of large amounts of cash in the casino’s parking lot pointed to an illegal underground banking network with links to the drug trade and even terrorist financing.

The BCLC said this week it commissioned its report due to allegations that customers at the River Rock were exchanging dirty cash for casino chips and then cashing them for checks. But Ernst & Young found that, of over 2,000 checks issued by the casino during the time period, only 49 raised red flags but these were all the result of innocent errors by staff.

Straw Man Fallacy

But speaking on local news radio, Global News investigative journalist Sam Cooper said the BCLC was barking up the wrong tree and that swapping checks for cash was only a small part of the problem.

A far more prevalent scheme involved criminals depositing piles of dirty cash – often drug money – with underground banking networks and receiving equivalent payments into Chinese bank accounts in return. The cash could then be loaned to Asian high-rollers.

“If you read the [attorney general’s] report, it says that [money laundering via casino checks] didn’t happen a lot. That certainly did happen — some people laundered money that way, quite a lot of money in cheques — but it wasn’t a systemic or wide pattern. So they’ve, from my view, erected a bit of a straw-man and said this type of money laundering isn’t occurring systematically.”

On Monday, Eby said he was shocked to learn that, despite the negative headlines, the RCMP was doing “nothing” to investigate continued money laundering in the province.

According to Global News, due to weak laws and poor police leadership, there is little capacity to prosecute international money launderers in Canadian courts.

Philip Conneller

Global and Tribal Gaming, Casino Business, International Crime, UK Gaming---- In Philip Conneller’s seven years with Casino.org, he has covered the gaming industry from Las Vegas to Macau and everything in between. Previously the original features editor for poker’s Bluff US and editor for Bluff Europe (which he helped launch), he has also written for iGaming Business, eGaming Review, and numerous other industry news sites. His news stories for Casino.org have been linked by the Washington Post, the Daily Mail, People Magazine, and Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, among many others. Philip lives outside of London with his wife and children, and frequently travels to the EU. Email: philip.conneller@casino.org

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Philip Conneller