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

B.C. money laundering inquiry could have lessons for other provinces: lawyer

4 reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors

Testimony at British Columbia’s public inquiry into money laundering will wrap up Friday, leading to a final report the commission’s chief lawyer says could provide broad lessons about the illegal activity for all Canadian jurisdictions.

The New Democrat government appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the inquiry after four reports concluded the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime and the drug trade impacted the province’s real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.

Since last spring, the Cullen Commission has heard testimony from about 200 witnesses over 130 days, including former B.C. premier Christy Clark, several former and current cabinet ministers, police officers, gaming officials and financial crime experts and academics.

The last witness expected to be heard on Friday is Rich Coleman, the former Liberal minister in charge of gaming, who was recalled after testifying before the commission in April.

Cullen is expected to complete his report by Dec. 15. It is expected to include recommendations that address the conditions that enabled money laundering to flourish in B.C.

Commission senior counsel Brock Martland said in an interview the aim is to make the final report helpful for the B.C. government and nationally.

“The hope is always that if the commission has gone well and the report is really well reasoned, founded on evidence and it’s been well tested and well analyzed, that the report isn’t simply helpful in this province but in fact has broader utility across the country,” he said.

The commission’s website says its mandate includes making findings of fact on the extent, growth and methods of money laundering in B.C. and whether the acts or omissions of responsible regulatory agencies and individuals “contributed to money laundering in the province or amount to corruption.”

“Ours is a very broad mandate which doesn’t limit itself in years or topics,” said Martland. “It’s basically to head out and study the question of money laundering, examine where there are weaknesses in the system and what kinds of reforms and recommendations should be made.”

The commission heard testimony from two senior gaming investigators who said they raised concerns in 2009 with gaming and government officials, including cabinet ministers, about increasing amounts of suspicious cash likely linked to organized crime appearing at Vancouver-area casinos.

The ex-RCMP officers, Larry Vander Graaf and Fred Pinnock, who are no longer employed as gaming investigators, both testified their calls to take action to restrict the flow of suspicious cash were not acted upon aggressively enough.

Coleman, who was the gaming minister off and on from 2001 to 2013, testified issues related to being able to prove suspicious cash at casinos was illegal money made it difficult to address money laundering head-on.

He denied during testimony that his government put gaming profits ahead of the concerns about the suspicious cash at casinos.

The commission didn’t say why it had recalled Coleman for its last witness on Friday.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby testified he was shocked to learn about the extent of the money laundering issue after meetings with officials at the Crown-owned B.C. Lottery Corp., and the government’s gaming regulator, the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch, after the NDP formed government in 2018.

Eby said he appointed an independent review of money laundering at B.C. casinos after watching videos taken outside of casinos showing gamblers picking up large bags packed with $20 bills and bringing them inside the venues.

Martland said the commission lawyers were aware of the highly charged debate surrounding the money laundering issue in B.C., but the overall aim of the inquiry is to provide the best information for the commissioner and the public.

“To the extent that we have got into areas that have a political component or a personal component, we really try to steer away from those kinds of debates and just really focus on what do we need to have evidence on and think our way through from the point of view of what’s in the public’s interest and what sort of recommendations can be made,” he said.

“We’re not interested in taking sides in a political debate,” said Martland.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

BC government

Just Posted

Penticton Overdose Prevention Society co-founders Desiree Franz, Shane Surowski and Stephanie Lines have created the city’s first unsanctioned public overdose prevention site using an old wine-tour bus. The site began operations in June 2021. (Desiree Franz/Facebook)
Volunteers launch Penticton’s first public supervised injection site

2021 is on pace to be the deadliest year for overdoses in Penticton on record

Owner Daren McWhinney is really excited about the new location of Angry Vegan which just opened up at 536 Main Street. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton’s Main Street turns into foodie heaven

Angry Vegan, Wild Ginger, Twisted Chopsticks and Gratify recently opened

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden coming to Penticton in 2022

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop live horse export

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

(Dave Ogilvie photo)
One injured after being pinned by fallen forklift near Peachland

West Kelowna emergency crews responded to reports of a person stuck under a forklift

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

This goose family went for a leisurely stroll down Vernon’s Main Street Saturday, April 25. (Dave Deshane photo)
Controversial Vernon goose cull won’t fly this year

Necessary permit procedures held up at a federal level

Mounties cover a burgundy truck with a tent at Buckerfields in West Kelowna on Monday, June 14. The RCMP is investigating after a woman’s body was found inside the truck. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
West Kelowna RCMP investigating suspicious death after body found in truck

Police responded to a truck parked out front of a Main Street business where the body was found

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Most Read