Top BC Lawmaker Let Money Launderers Run Riot in State Casinos, Former Police Commander Says

Posted on: November 6, 2020, 04:56h. 

Last updated on: November 6, 2020, 10:01h.

British Columbia’s minister in charge of gaming under the province’s former Liberal government had no interest in combating money laundering at state-owned casinos, according to a former top police officer.

Rich Coleman
Former Liberal minister Rich Coleman was accused Thursday of willfully ignoring British Columbia’s money laundering problem. (Image: Vancouver Sun)

Fred Pinnock was commander of BC’s anti-illegal gaming unit until it was disbanded by the Liberals in 2009. He told a commission examining historical casino money laundering in the province that he held Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Rich Coleman “largely responsible” for the criminal gangs that were “out of control” at BC Lottery Corp casinos.

The BC government in general was guilty of “willful blindness” in the face of rampant money laundering in the province, Pinnock said.

The Cullen Commission is examining how the province’s casino sector was turned into a “laundromat for organized crime,” in the words of one independent report, particularly in the years from 2011 to 2015.

All About the Money

In Pinnock’s experience, the situation was already “out of control” in 2007. But when he tried to expand the remit of his department to tackle the money laundering gangs, he was shot down by his superiors.

“I felt it was a charade and I don’t feel my superiors cared,” Pinnock told the commission, as reported by Canada’s Global News. “Public safety was not a priority of my superiors with respect to gaming.”

Pinnock also recounted a meeting with then-solicitor general Kash Heed, where he aired his concerns about the problem and Coleman’s alleged lack of interest.

I told him I am convinced that Rich Coleman knows what’s going on inside those casinos,” Pinnock recalled. “And Kash Heed confirmed my perception that I was accurate in my belief, and he did feel that Rich Coleman had created this.

“He said to me, in effect, ‘That is what is going on, Fred. But I can’t say that publicly. You know, it’s all about the money.’”

BC Lottery Corp Casinos generated CA$1.814 billion in the 2015/16 fiscal year.

Enforcement Vacuum

Pinnock’s battles with his superiors in the BC Mounties, as well as the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, eventually led to him taking medical leave in 2007. A year later, his unit was disbanded, three months after it compiled a damning report on BC’s casino’s infiltration by organized crime.

This left an enforcement vacuum in the province until 2016, when BC launched an anti-gang unit which took up the role of targeting money laundering and casino crime.

Following the dissolution of his unit, Pinnock asked his then-girlfriend, BC lawmaker Naomi Yamamoto, to approach Coleman with his concerns. But she was publicly berated when she tried to bring the issue up.

Coleman’s reaction was “brutal and dismissive and embarrassing,” the commission heard.

Pinnock is expected to continue his testimony on Friday.