Hearing will determine whistleblower status at money laundering inquiry

  • September 24, 2019

By Kim Bolan for The Vancouver Sun

Whistleblowers and B.C. Lottery Corp. officials will have to provide more information to the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering before it can be determined whether they will get standing, commission lawyer Brock Martland said Tuesday.

The commission has released a list of 16 groups and individuals that have been given standing at the inquiry, which will start public hearings in the spring.

But no decision has yet been made on four others — whistleblower and former casino investigator Ross Alderson, B.C. Lottery Corp. officials Brad Desmarais and James Lightbody, and Fred Pinnock, who headed the Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team from 2005 to 2008.

Martland said the four submitted applications for standing, but that he needs to ask each of them more questions at a half-day public hearing to be held in the coming weeks.

“They weren’t granted participant status based on what they put forward in their applications,” Martland said. “On the other side, they weren’t told no … they weren’t denied either.”

He said the half-day hearing will provide the would-be participants — some of whom have already spoken out publicly about money laundering in casinos — the opportunity “to address me and expand on what they have put forward.”

The participants approved to date are: the B.C. Ministry of Finance, the Attorney-General’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, the federal government, the B.C. Society of Notaries Public, the B.C. Law Society, the B.C. Lottery Corp., Great Canadian Gaming, Gateway Casinos, the Canadian Gaming Association, the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, former BCLC vice-president Robert Kroeker, BMW Canada, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Criminal Defence Advocacy Society, and a coalition comprised of Transparency International Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness, and Publish What You Pay Canada.

But Martland said there are other agencies and individuals who have had some discussion about the possibility of participating and may be added to the list.

Premier John Horgan announced the inquiry, headed by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen, last May and said it would examine the full scope of money laundering in the province, including real estate, gaming, financial institutions, and the corporate and professional sectors.

Martland said the public portion of the hearing would likely begin in spring 2020 and continue next fall. The commission’s interim report is due in November 2020 with a final report to be submitted by May 2021.

Those working on the commission will travel around the province in the coming weeks to get input on money laundering concerns from members of the public, civic officials and police, Martland said.

“The basic idea is this is an inquiry that is independent of government and our view is that we serve the people of the province and we want to engage with the public. We want to hear what people put forward as their main areas of concern. What do they want to see us look at? What are the things that are weighing heavily on people?” he said. “One of the ways to get some understanding of that is to actually go to the communities in the province and meet with people.”

The inquiry was announced after media reports — including several by Postmedia — exposed how money laundering was being done through B.C. casinos and real estate deals. As well, the reports focused on a lengthy investigation into illegal bank Silver International which resulted in criminal charges that were later stayed without explanation.

The B.C. government hired former senior Mountie Peter German to take a preliminary look at the money laundering problem. His first report, Dirty Money, exposed wide-spread money laundering through casinos. His second report focused on money laundering through the purchase of real estate and high-end cars.