Commissioner Austin Cullen listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on February 24, 2020. 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, on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac

Vast amounts of cash started flowing into British Columbia’s largest casino in 2010 and transactions of $800,000 or more became common as players hauled in bags, suitcases and backpacks full of cash, an inquiry heard Monday.

Steven Beeksma, who worked as a surveillance manager at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, recalled one case in 2014 of a player bringing in $200,000. The player then lost $6,000 and cashed out with $194,000 in $100 bills, which would receive less scrutiny when deposited in a bank, he said.

“This would be a case of refining, where the player was using the casino to exchange his $20 bills for $100 bills either for his own purpose or acting on behalf or a third party,” Beeksma added.

“We would have no way of knowing, but that behaviour would be suspicious to us.”

It’s unlikely banks would dispense so much money in $20 bills, said Beeksma, who was employed by the Great Canadian Casino Corp. for 12 years before working at River Rock as an investigator for the B.C. Lottery Corp. starting in 2010.

Beeksma, who works as an anti-money laundering specialist with the lottery corporation, said he did not intervene in the suspicious transactions at the direction of managers who ran the casino.

“We had concerns about the cash’s origins for sure,” he said ”The concern would be proceeds of crime but with limited information available to us it was more of an assumption at that time.”

The B.C. government launched the inquiry after reports outlined how illegal cash was helping to fuel the real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors in the province. The province also commissioned three reports that said those businesses were hotbeds for dirty money.

Beeksma said banned players were seen on surveillance video dropping off bags of cash to patrons in a parking lot.

In one case in February 2012, a person who’d been banned for loan sharking provided a patron with $50,000 in cash in a washroom, according to Beeksma.

The woman then left and was later seen on surveillance video being dropped off at the back of the casino by the general manager of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. at the time, said Beeksma, who did not name the general manager.

An investigation determined the patron had been out for a meal with him and was given gifts including chocolates and roses, the inquiry heard.

The same woman was again handed $50,000 cash in $20 bills as part of a cash drop-off and the money was accepted as a buy-in by the casino, Beeksma said.

“There was no direction that buy-ins of this nature should not be accepted, is that fair?” inquiry lawyer Patrick McGowan asked.

“That’s fair, yes,” Beeksma said, adding it wasn’t uncommon for valuable players to be wined and dined by the general manager.

“He likely had no idea what was about to happen but he put himself in a precarious situation,” Beeksma said.

In 2015, new regulations brought in by the B.C. Lottery Corp. included players being interviewed in an effort to determine the source of their money.

The lottery corporation has said it consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac, Canada’s financial transactions reporting centre, and pointed out unusual conduct to the gaming policy enforcement branch.

The corporation has also brought in measures to control or prevent the flow of dirty money since 2012, including creating an anti-money laundering unit made up of certified investigators and intelligence analysts.

The Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns several B.C. gambling sites, has defended the company’s efforts to limit money laundering, telling the inquiry that criticism of the industry is unfounded.

ALSO READ: Civil forfeiture office alleges $2M Surrey home was used to launder cannabis money

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

money laundering

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

Just Posted

Neskonlith band councillor Cora Anthony, Switzmalph Child Care Centre manager Crystal Cox and Neskonlith councillor Louis Thomas pause on Nov. 27 for a photo outside the centre at 4501 First Ave. SW, newly opened in October. 
(Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Switzmalph Child Care Centre shares culture with Salmon Arm community

New daycare offers Secw├ępemc culturally enriched programs to children of all heritages

The speed humps the City of Salmon Arm installed on Okanagan Avenue behind city hall appear to be working, report city staff. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Speed humps near Salmon Arm’s Fletcher Park considered a success

City staff say traffic has slowed accordingly, visibility will improve when street light replaced

An Enderby restaurant and pub was shut down Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
Enderby pub reopens after COVID-19 scare

After a guest reportedly tested positive for the virus, staff test results came back negative

As the deadline draws closer for the distribution of Christmas hampers, the Salvation Army in Salmon Arm is concerned that it has not received enough applications yet and people will be going without. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Time running out for people in Salmon Arm to apply for hampers

Salvation Army urges residents to make appointments right away to get help with food at Christmas

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Alix Longland
Trauma resources ready for North Okanagan refugees

Family Resource Centre working with UBCO social work grad to reach out to local refugees

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Students at Lavington Elementary crammed a car full of non-perishables for those in the community facing food insecurity. Spearheaded by teacher January Peebles (left), the donations were picked up by Give LUCK founder Myrika Godard, who works to connect donors with donees in the North Okanagan. (Give LUCK photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read