A 2009 report seen by Canada’s Global News that revealed the extent of money laundering, loan sharking, corruption, violence, and human trafficking within British Columbia’s legal and illegal casino industries was apparently ignored by the provincial government of the time.
Three months later, the police unit that prepared the report was completely disbanded by the government. But now, thanks to extensive freedom of information requests by GN, the report has at last seen the light of day.
Denis Meunier, the former deputy director of Canada’s anti-money laundering watchdog, Fintrac, told the Toronto-based news network that its contents were “shocking” and “explosive.”
Among the revelations is that an unnamed businessman with “connections to Asian organized crime” was permitted to buy a stake in a BC Lottery Corp casino.
“The regulatory investigator involved in the share-transfer process is alleged to have known about these connections when this subject originally bought into a casino,” the report said. “The regulatory investigator is now retired from the provincial government. However, he still appears to be involved in the legitimate gaming industry.”
Loan Sharks and Traffickers
The report claims that province-backed legal gaming operations and illicit underground casinos had become intertwined, often sharing the same dealers and loan-shark networks.
These loan sharks routinely meted out violence — and murder — to those who could not pay their debts.
“Illegal and legal gaming share the same issues, such as loan-sharking, extortion, assaults, kidnappings and murders,” the report concluded. “And illegal and legal gaming have been interlinked when, in some cases, casino staff have directed patrons to loan sharks or to common gaming houses.”
In May 2006, “The eight-year-old daughter and the six-year-old son of a common gaming house operator were abducted at gun-point,” says the report.
“The children were told by the kidnapper that their father owed $300,000. A neighbor saw the children climb out of the trunk of a stolen vehicle and called police. They were recovered safely,” the reports adds.
Meanwhile, organized crime with links to drug cartels was making big money operating underground gambling venues — money that could easily be laundered because the criminals had also infiltrated legitimate casinos, per the report.
Crime gangs also made money from trafficking women from Asia into the province, where they would be forced into sex work.
Money Laundering Scandal
The report was filed by the RCMP’s Anti-Illegal Gaming Unit, which at the time only had powers to target illegal venues. It recommended the government broaden its remit so it could investigate the presence of organized crime within BC Lottery Corp casinos as well.
Instead, the government pulled its funding and shut the unit down.
This was not the first report that was apparently quashed by the previous BC Liberal administration.
When the BC New Democratic Party took over after the 2017 general election, BC attorney general David Eby uncovered a report authored by the Gaming Policy Enforcement branch a year earlier. That report concluded the River Rock Casino in Richmond had been routinely guilty of turning a blind eye to large cash transactions made with low denomination banknotes.
Eby commissioned an independent report which found that criminal gangs had turned the province into a “laundromat for organized crime” with millions of dollars each year washed through a broken casino system.