Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Former premier Christy Clark has told British Columbia’s inquiry into money laundering that she first heard from sources within government in 2015 about a spike in suspicious cash entering casinos.

Clark testified Tuesday that she was concerned the problem was “apparently at an all-time high,” though government officials also believed the spike was confirmation that increased training among B.C. Lottery Corp. and provincial gaming enforcement staff was working.

The concerns raised in 2015 by Mike de Jong, who was the minister responsible for gaming, spurred the creation of the joint illegal gaming investigation team, a division of B.C.’s anti-gang police agency, she told the Cullen commission.

Clark testified her government had also acted quickly to implement a 2011 report that recommended changes to its anti-money laundering strategies.

Patrick McGowan, a lawyer with the commission, asked Clark whether she was aware that between 2012 and 2015, large cash buy-ins at casinos consisting mostly of $20 bills had become commonplace in the Lower Mainland.

Clark said she was not, but her government was taking various anti-money laundering actions at the time, including restricting the exchange of small bills for large bills and transitioning to electronic funds transfers in casinos.

“I wasn’t being kept abreast of the large cash buy-ins and the reports from law enforcement specifically,” she said, adding she assumed that police would act on any reports of suspicious transactions.

McGowan asked Clark whether she would have intervened or raised concerns if she had been told about large sums of cash, mostly in $20 bills, being dropped off late at night and accepted.

“I can’t answer questions about what might have happened,” said Clark. “I can say that we took significant action in the years that I was there, and I think confirmation of its effectiveness is that the current government is continuing with those actions that we undertook.”

When McGowan asked if Clark knew that the vast majority of money reported as suspicious was being accepted by casinos, the former premier testified she had not been aware

A discussion about managing the potentially competing pressures of maximizing provincial revenues while minimizing the risk that the financial proceeds of crime were entering casinos “was never necessary,” she said.

The B.C. Liberals under Clark had campaigned on public safety and controlling government costs rather than pushing Crown corporations to bring in more revenues, she said.

“The idea was never to try and get revenue at the expense of public safety or public confidence in our casino system. Stopping crime, stopping money laundering, was always a primary concern way over and above the revenue that came from (the B.C. Lottery Corp.).”

Clark is among a number of former cabinet ministers on the commission’s witness list this month. Attorney General David Eby has been added to the witness list as well.

The B.C. government appointed Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in May 2019 to lead the public inquiry into money laundering after three reports outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash affected B.C.’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.

Asked whether she knew of any steps the government took to investigate whether housing prices in B.C. could have been influenced by possible illicit money being invested in real estate, Clark said no one in government or law enforcement ever made that suggestion.

The province granted the commission an extension in March to produce its final report, which is now due on Dec. 15.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC politicsmoney laundering

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

Just Posted

If the police are only going to be able to supply a limited amount of security, other options need to be explored to keep residents protected. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Security requires creative solutions

Hiring a company or soliciting volunteers to do patrols among the ideas

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring. (File photo)
North Cowichan considers extending deadline for property tax payments

A two-month deadline extension to Sept. 1 gets three readings

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Letters to the Editor.
Speedy service by operations department

North Cowichan responds to deplorable conditions at Askew Creek Park

The Yellow Sub Machine has been open for business for nearly two months. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Pandemic pivot leads to the creation of the Yellow Sub Machine for gourmet sub grub

Former Odika owners stake their claim in the food truck business

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

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

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Most Read