Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. money laundering inquiry could have lessons for other provinces: lawyer

4 reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors

Testimony at British Columbia’s public inquiry into money laundering will wrap up Friday, leading to a final report the commission’s chief lawyer says could provide broad lessons about the illegal activity for all Canadian jurisdictions.

The New Democrat government appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the inquiry after four reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.

Since last spring, the Cullen Commission has heard testimony from about 200 witnesses over 130 days, including former B.C. premier Christy Clark, several former and current cabinet ministers, police officers, gaming officials and financial crime experts and academics.

The last witness expected to be heard on Friday is Rich Coleman, the former Liberal minister in charge of gaming, who was recalled after testifying before the commission in April.

Cullen is expected to complete his report by Dec. 15. It is expected to include recommendations that address the conditions that enabled money laundering to flourish in B.C.

Commission senior counsel Brock Martland said in an interview the aim is to make the final report helpful for the B.C. government and nationally.

“The hope is always that if the commission has gone well and the report is really well reasoned, founded on evidence and it’s been well tested and well analyzed, that the report isn’t simply helpful in this province but in fact has broader utility across the country,” he said.

The commission’s website says its mandate includes making findings of fact on the extent, growth and methods of money laundering in B.C. and whether the acts or omissions of responsible regulatory agencies and individuals “contributed to money laundering in the province or amount to corruption.”

“Ours is a very broad mandate which doesn’t limit itself in years or topics,” said Martland. “It’s basically to head out and study the question of money laundering, examine where there are weaknesses in the system and what kinds of reforms and recommendations should be made.”

The commission heard testimony from two senior gaming investigators who said they raised concerns in 2009 with gaming and government officials, including cabinet ministers, about increasing amounts of suspicious cash likely linked to organized crime appearing at Vancouver-area casinos.

The ex-RCMP officers, Larry Vander Graaf and Fred Pinnock, who are no longer employed as gaming investigators, both testified their calls to take action to restrict the flow of suspicious cash were not acted upon aggressively enough.

Coleman, who was the gaming minister off and on from 2001 to 2013, testified issues related to being able to prove suspicious cash at casinos was illegal money made it difficult to address money laundering head-on.

He denied during testimony that his government put gaming profits ahead of the concerns about the suspicious cash at casinos.

The commission didn’t say why it had recalled Coleman for its last witness on Friday.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby testified he was shocked to learn about the extent of the money laundering issue after meetings with officials at the Crown-owned B.C. Lottery Corp., and the government’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, after the NDP formed government in 2018.

Eby said he appointed an independent review of money laundering at B.C. casinos after watching videos taken outside of casinos showing gamblers picking up large bags packed with $20 bills and bringing them inside the venues.

Martland said the commission lawyers were aware of the highly charged debate surrounding the money laundering issue in B.C., but the overall aim of the inquiry is to provide the best information for the commissioner and the public.

“To the extent that we have got into areas that have a political component or a personal component, we really try to steer away from those kinds of debates and just really focus on what do we need to have evidence on and think our way through from the point of view of what’s in the public’s interest and what sort of recommendations can be made,” he said.

“We’re not interested in taking sides in a political debate,” said Martland.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC government

Just Posted

Joseph Albert Brooks, 94-years-young pf Prince Rupert offers traditional prayers and smudging to the sick. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Heart of our City: Joseph Albert Brooks keeps smudging and praying for others

94-year-old Tsimshian elder just wants some help washing his floors

Land along Prince Rupert’s waterfront, PID 012-247-391, where residents say excessive industrial train noise is stemming from, has been found to be owned by the City of Prince Rupert and is not federal land like first presented, Prince Rupert Environmental Society stated on June 17. (Image: supplied by Land Title and Survey, Govt. of BC.)
Error found on land titles map may assist city with noise control enforcement of industry

Prince Rupert residents had been told there was no municipal jurisdiction to enforce noise bylaws

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Visitors to a pop-up temporary aquarium in Prince Rupert will have the chance to see marine ecology from July 21 to Aug. 15, like this viewer watching sea anemones at the Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert pop-up aquarium will bring sea level to eye level in July

A permanent peak to reef ecology centre is in the planning stages by North Coast Ecology Society

Prince Rupert’s Ellen Wright and Graeme Dickens jam out during filming the two Ring System Studio concerts to be broadcast on television during June. (Photo: supplied, H. Cox)
Ring System Studio sounds on television

Two concerts by the Prince Rupert music school will be broadcast in June

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
Drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250-hectare wildfire in B.C.

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Most Read