Organized crime groups from around the world have found a welcoming environment for money laundering in British Columbia (BC), Canada, according to a new report by the province’s attorney general.  

BC casinos

Criminal organizations would bring piles of cash into BC casinos as part of a money laundering scheme. (Source: Vancouver Sun)

AG David Eby revealed all the damning details in a report titled “Dirty Money” this week. It sheds light on how criminal rings from China, Mexico, Columbia and elsewhere specifically targeted Vancouver-area casinos to “clean” their illegally obtained proceeds, taking advantage of the gaps between different government agencies. 

Eby went as far as to accuse the previous Liberal government of turning a blind eye to the activity, ignoring red flags that were raised as far back as 2011.

“Nobody said ‘no’ to taking this money, and that is inexcusable,” Eby told reporters, according to The Globe and Mail. “It was so strange that it took so long to take action,”

Gangsters’ Paradise

The scenes revealed to the public this week were like something out of a movie. Perpetrators would bring plastic bags packed with bundled $20 bills and plunk them on casino counters. One security video showed a man taking a full 13 minutes to count out all his cash.

Much of the money is believed to be linked to the criminal drug trade — specifically the opioid crisis — which has led to thousands of deaths in the province.

The activity has also had a detrimental effect on the housing market. Organizations would take the “clean” money and invest it in Vancouver real estate, driving up prices and squeezing locals out of the market.

Flawed and irregular government regulations are to blame for the wild west landscape, according to the report’s author, Peter German. Calling it a “collective system failure”, German states that government policy was simply unable to keep up with the growing sophistication of organized crime groups.

It didn’t help that the province’s anti-money laundering unit is closed on evenings and weekends.

Cleaning Up

Even before the report was released, officials had started taking action. Earlier this week, the BC government filed a lawsuit to recover $75,000 in money they suspected was laundered by a Chinese-Australian man. 

But lawmakers are promising sweeping changes to come.

“We will be moving as quickly as possible to slam the door shut on dirty money,” Eby said.

He’s vowing that his government will implement as many of the 48 recommendations made in the report as possible. That includes forcing people who deposit more than $10,000 to prove that it doesn’t come from illegal activity.

In addition, the report calls for the creation of a new new regulatory agency to oversee BC casinos. Ideally, that body would come with its own police force and appointed prosecutors. The report also recommends those government regulators be present in BC’s bigger casinos around the clock to monitor all activity.

However, the author warns that anything less than going all in on the changes would only lead to history repeating itself.

“In my opinion, partial implementation of the recommendations would be a mistake,” German told The Globe and Mail.