VANCOUVER – An attorney representing British Columbia government workers urged a public investigation into money laundering to ask for better protection for whistleblowers, saying if they had existed, the illegal cash may not have ended up in the provincial casinos.
Jitesh Mistry told the Cullen commission on Monday that frontline casino workers often observe suspicious activity but fear harassing, intimidating and dangerous behavior when introducing themselves.
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“We say that if such a regime had existed during the period of inaction and intentional blindness, it is very possible that many of the adverse effects of money laundering would have been mitigated,” said Mistry, who represents the General Union of BC Workers.
The investigation, which concluded testimony last month and is listening to final submissions, has heard that investigators raised concerns with government and gambling officials more than a decade ago about the use of increasing amounts of suspicious cash in casinos. from the Vancouver area.
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The investigation has heard about 200 witnesses, including former Prime Minister Christy Clark, cabinet ministers, police officers, gambling officials, financial crime experts, and academics.
Austin Cullen, who is also a BC Supreme Court Justice, was appointed by the provincial government in 2019 to lead the investigation after multiple reports said the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime affected the province’s real estate and luxury vehicles. and sectors of the game.
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The mandate of the investigation includes making factual findings about the extent, growth and methods of money laundering in British Columbia, and whether the acts or omissions of regulatory agencies and responsible individuals “contributed to money laundering in the province or amount to corruption, “the commission’s website. He says.
Mistry said suspicious activities associated with illegal cash in casinos grew during the former Liberal government of British Columbia when programs were severely cut to support tax cuts.
The union believes that a comprehensive whistleblowing regime for casino workers would better protect the integrity of the industry and the public interest, Mistry said.
BC has whistleblower protections, but there are loopholes, Mistry said, calling for improved protections in the gaming industry, the private sector and the media. He said Saskatchewan and New Brunswick are jurisdictions with broad whistleblower protections.
Earlier Monday, attorneys for British Columbia’s largest gaming companies said that compliance with provincial regulations to combat money laundering is and has always been a top priority at provincial casinos.
Great Canadian Casino attorney Mark Skwarok told the commission that the company went beyond its obligations to report to Crown-owned BC Lottery Corp., including installing a surveillance system that extended to areas parking near River Rock Casino in Richmond.
Videos showing people with large bags full of cash at the casino were cited as examples of suspicious activity with possible links to organized crime and money laundering prior to the provincial government’s decision to launch the public investigation.
Attorney David Gruber, representative of Gateway Casinos, said in the investigation that it is a myth that large cash transactions generate money in casinos because the data shows that high limit tables are not important income generators.
The closing presentations were scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday. Cullen’s final report is due December 15.
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