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

The grant from Ottawa and Victoria comes with certain stipulations, according to a letter from the province. Photo: Jensen Edwards
Feds, province give Greenwood ‘COVID Re-start’ grant

The funds come with spending directives, transparency requirements

From the left: Greenwood councillors Jim Nathorst and Colleen Lang listen to a delegation by the city’s board of trade Monday, Nov. 23. In the background are Chief Administrative Officer Wendy Higashi and Mayor Barry Noll. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Greenwood partners with Board of Trade on Christmas project

Board of Trade VP Vicki Barlow addressed mayor and council at the McArthur Centre Monday, Nov. 23

Sgt. Darryl Peppler said Mounties are continuing their investigation after Tuesday’s raid. File photo
Grand Forks RCMP arrest suspected drug traffickers at city motel

Police say they netted “a sizable amount” of money and suspected drugs following Tuesday’s arrests.

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Police investigating burglary ‘ring’ with ties to Greenwood and Okanagan

Midway RCMP are looking at “persons of interest” in two Greenwood heists

The 29-year-old man pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving at Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Nov. 17. File photo
Grand Forks man gets 3-months curfew for role in Highway 3 chase

Guilty man thanked Judge Robert Brown, said he is committed to recovering from addiction

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read