A 1,800-page report into historical money laundering at British Columbia casinos found no trace of political corruption, but it did make 101 recommendations to combat the flow of dirty cash through the province.
Among them is the establishment of a new anti-money laundering czar to “provide strategic oversight of the provincial response to money laundering.”
These are the findings of the Cullen Commission, published Wednesday. Led by former BC Supreme Court justice, Austin Cullen, the independent public inquiry spent three years investigating the rampant money laundering epidemic in the province, which reached its height from around 2010 to 2016.
Hundres of Millions Washed
Hundreds of millions of drug-linked dollars are believed to have been washed through British Columbia’s casino, real estate, and luxury vehicle sectors in that time, contributing to the rise in property prices and the opioid problem.
Part of the commission’s remit was to determine whether the Liberal provincial government, which ruled during that period, and operator-regulator BC Lottery Corp (BCLC) willfully ignored the problem to maximize revenues for the province.
Cullen concluded that numerous elected officials failed to “take steps sufficient to resolve the extensive money laundering occurring in the [gaming] industry for which they were responsible.” But there was “no basis to conclude that any engaged in any form of corruption related to the gaming industry.”
“To the extent that some have hypothesized that money laundering in casinos was facilitated by corrupt politicians or officials, they are engaging in conjecture that is not rooted in evidence,” he wrote.
Part of the reason the problem was not given sufficient attention was because anti-money laundering (AML) was not the dedicated responsibility of any one minister, according to Cullen. His recommendation is that the province should establish an independent AML commissioner.
Cullen found the BCLC and law enforcement were aware of the money laundering problem but failed to intervene effectively. A solution would be the formation of “a dedicated provincial money laundering intelligence and investigation unit with a robust intelligence division,” he wrote.
He also recommended lowering the threshold for requiring proof of customers’ sources of funds from $10,000 to $3,000.
“Money laundering has at its origin, crime that destroys communities, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and fraud,” Cullen wrote. “These crimes victimize the most vulnerable members of society. Money laundering is an affront to law-abiding citizens who earn their money honestly and pay their fair share of the costs of living in the community.”
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