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

UPlan, the Youth Planning Table subcommittee, decorated downtown Maple Ridge in honour of this years grads. (The News files)
Grad parties being planned by parents in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Four COVID-safe events being held at Pitt Meadows Golf Club

Valerie Miller met a small child at the vigil at the Maple Ridge bandstand, and found it an uplifting encounter during a dark time. (Special to The News)
LETTER: Encounter at Maple Ridge’s orange shirt memorial a bright spot

A small child showed the relentless optimism of kids

Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or in writing.
LETTER: Fond memories of a promising student

Former teacher recounts Olympic kayakers other feats as a child

Flyers are being distributed around the Albion area in an effort to protect the young bear.
Young bear in Albion needs help to survive

Maple Ridge Bears asks public to remove attractants

Jackie Brittain demonstrated her artistic talents when conceiving an idea and sketching out an award-winning advertising campaign for Golden Meadows Honey Farm. Her efforts have earned her back-to-back industry accolades, including a gold medal win at the BCYCNA Ma Murray Awards Thursday night.
VIDEO: Honeycomb sketches turn into back-to-back industry accolades for News

A honey ad and a quarterly lifestyle magazine produced by The News were lauded by B.C. news media

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

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

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Most Read