Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos is scheduled to testify today at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos is scheduled to testify today at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Inquiry hears gaming minister focused on money, not organized crime at B.C. casinos

2017 arrests tied to organized crime, illegal gaming led to dramatic dips in revenue at casinos

A former RCMP officer testified at an inquiry into money laundering Thursday that a British Columbia cabinet minister told him in 2009 that the gaming minister knew about organized crime at casinos but was more focused on the revenue they generated.

Fred Pinnock, who was in charge of the now-defunct illegal gaming enforcement team, testified that he met with then-solicitor general Kash Heed, who is also a former officer he knew through policing circles for 35 years.

Pinnock said Heed told him that his concerns about illegal activities were legitimate but Rich Coleman, who was the gaming minister, was “all about the money.”

“I believe I said to him I’m convinced that Rich Coleman knows what’s going on inside those casinos,” Pinnock said. “And he confirmed my perceptions.”

Pinnock said Heed asserted Coleman was “largely responsible” for problems at casinos and named three or four senior RCMP officers who he alleged were complicit as “puppets for Coleman.”

He said the meeting with Heed was at a cafe or restaurant in Victoria in November 2009.

“Did you ask him whether, as the sitting solicitor general, he had directed any sort of enforcement response?” asked Patrick McGowan, a lawyer for the inquiry.

“It didn’t come up,” Pinnock replied.

Pinnock said he called Heed in July 2018 and secretly recorded the conversation before meeting with him in September that year, when he again recorded the former politician repeating his previous comments about Coleman.

Before he initially met with Heed, Pinnock said his then-girlfriend, legislature member Naomi Yamamoto, approached the gaming minister about arranging a meeting with him on what Pinnock alleged was “out-of-control organized criminal activity” at casinos.

“She told me that it was in a group setting and she described his reaction as brutal and dismissive and embarrassing,” Pinnock said. “My conclusion from that is that he did not want to be seen to be told.”

Yamamoto, who was minister of state for emergency preparedness before the B.C. Liberals were defeated in 2017, never discussed any caucus or cabinet issues with him, said Pinnock, who is now married to Yamamoto.

The NDP launched the inquiry after reports outlined how illegal cash was helping to fuel the real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors in the province. The province also commissioned three reports that said millions of dollars in dirty money flowed through those businesses.

Pinnock said his team was working in partnership with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch but that was a “charade” and rising tension had him move his staff to a different area of the same building.

He told the inquiry his superiors’ expectations in working with the branch were to “play nicely, get along, we don’t expect big things from you.”

His attempts to investigate proceeds of crime, money laundering and loan sharking at casinos had him writing two proposals in 2007, the first to expand his team and the second to increase funding, Pinnock said, adding he did so at the direction of a senior officer.

However, he testified he doesn’t believe anything came of what he proposed and that he quit his job in December 2007 after two years of frustration. He retired from the RCMP the following year, and the illegal gaming enforcement team was disbanded in 2009.

Earlier Thursday, the inquiry heard the arrests of several people tied to organized crime and illegal gaming in 2017 led to dramatic reductions in revenue at casinos, but only temporarily.

Daryl Tottenham, manager of anti-money laundering programs for the B.C. Lottery Corp., testified casinos were like ghost towns for two to three weeks as high-end players and others stayed away.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

money laundering

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five to six years of log accumulation at Diana Lake Provincial Park is currently being cleaned up by a District of Port Edward and Parks BC partnership. (Photo: Supplied by District of Port Edward)
Diana Lake Provincial Park clean up underway

Port Edward District spearheaded the park clean up securing $80,000 in funds from Ridley Terminal

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital took in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health as part of a provincial agreement. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria hospital takes in two COVID-19 patients from Northern Health

Royal Jubilee Hospital takes patients as part of provincial transport network

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Nov. 19. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
52 positive COVID-19 cases now associated with LNG Canada site outbreak

Eight cases still active, 44 considered recovered

Northern Health announced on Dec. 1 holiday changes to the medical travel bus schedule for December and January 2021. (Photo: supplied)
Holiday schedule changes for Northern Health Connections bus

N.H. announces transportation time changes from Prince Rupert to Prince George

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

An RCMP officer confers with military rescuers outside their Cormorant helicopter near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
Good Samaritan helped Kootenay police nab, rescue suspect which drew armed forces response

Midway RCMP said a Good Samaritan helped track the suspect, then brought the arresting officer dry socks

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

(Needpix.com)
Pandemic has ‘exacerbated’ concerns for B.C. children and youth with special needs: report

Pandemic worsened an already patchwork system, representative says

Most Read