Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. 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, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Vast amounts of cash started flowing into British Columbia’s largest casino in 2010 and transactions of $800,000 or more became common as players hauled in bags, suitcases and backpacks full of cash, an inquiry heard Monday.

Steven Beeksma, who worked as a surveillance manager at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, recalled one case in 2014 of a player bringing in $200,000. The player then lost $6,000 and cashed out with $194,000 in $100 bills, which would receive less scrutiny when deposited in a bank, he said.

“This would be a case of refining, where the player was using the casino to exchange his $20 bills for $100 bills either for his own purpose or acting on behalf or a third party,” Beeksma added.

“We would have no way of knowing, but that behaviour would be suspicious to us.”

It’s unlikely banks would dispense so much money in $20 bills, said Beeksma, who was employed by the Great Canadian Casino Corp. for 12 years before working at River Rock as an investigator for the B.C. Lottery Corp. starting in 2010.

Beeksma, who works as an anti-money laundering specialist with the lottery corporation, said he did not intervene in the suspicious transactions at the direction of managers who ran the casino.

“We had concerns about the cash’s origins for sure,” he said ”The concern would be proceeds of crime but with limited information available to us it was more of an assumption at that time.”

The B.C. government 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 those businesses were hotbeds for dirty money.

Beeksma said banned players were seen on surveillance video dropping off bags of cash to patrons in a parking lot.

In one case in February 2012, a person who’d been banned for loan sharking provided a patron with $50,000 in cash in a washroom, according to Beeksma.

The woman then left and was later seen on surveillance video being dropped off at the back of the casino by the general manager of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. at the time, said Beeksma, who did not name the general manager.

An investigation determined the patron had been out for a meal with him and was given gifts including chocolates and roses, the inquiry heard.

The same woman was again handed $50,000 cash in $20 bills as part of a cash drop-off and the money was accepted as a buy-in by the casino, Beeksma said.

“There was no direction that buy-ins of this nature should not be accepted, is that fair?” inquiry lawyer Patrick McGowan asked.

“That’s fair, yes,” Beeksma said, adding it wasn’t uncommon for valuable players to be wined and dined by the general manager.

“He likely had no idea what was about to happen but he put himself in a precarious situation,” Beeksma said.

In 2015, new regulations brought in by the B.C. Lottery Corp. included players being interviewed in an effort to determine the source of their money.

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac, Canada’s financial transactions reporting centre, and pointed out unusual conduct to the gaming policy enforcement branch.

The corporation has also brought in measures to control or prevent the flow of dirty money since 2012, including creating an anti-money laundering unit made up of certified investigators and intelligence analysts.

The Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns several B.C. gambling sites, has defended the company’s efforts to limit money laundering, telling the inquiry that criticism of the industry is unfounded.

ALSO READ: Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

money laundering

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

Just Posted

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

It’s been almost a year since the last public performance inside the Chemainus Theatre. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Lead donors pledge $60,000 in matching campaign at the Chemainus Theatre

Perrys, Hiltons and Duncan Iron Works help to Bridge the Gap during COVID shutdown

Doug Routley is the chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act. (File photo)
Routley selected chair of a special committee on reforming the Police Act

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA acknowledges there will be a lot of material to process

Beautiful flowers spring up on Thetis Island during February. (Photo by Kelly Bannister)
Weather conditions cover the full spectrum in February

The only thing missing from the region was a more summerlike feel

Police are investigating after a man was killed at a home on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police investigating early-morning murder in Duncan

One arrested after man killed at Cowichan Lake Road home

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

Most Read