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

Part of a new housing development proposal for the former Alberni District Secondary School site. (SCREENSHOT)
Housing gap widens in Port Alberni

Vancouver Island city suffers from ‘missing middle’ to housing density

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires Vancouver Island wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The Port Alberni Train Station is located outside the entrance to Harbour Quay, on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni gets funding to restore heritage train station

Historic train station needs seismic upgrades

Raw logs are loaded onto a logging ship from a log sort down the Alberni Inlet in March 2019. SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News
Port Alberni light on industrial land

Report finds few suitable locations for new industry

Cowichan Valley writer Jennifer Manuel will headlining YakFest on March 1. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cowichan Valley writer to headline next YakFest on March 1

YakFest is a B.C.-based monthly women’s event held online via Zoom

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Most Read