High rollers’ massive cash transactions have prompted a British Columbia inquiry in Canada. It happened at a casino in Richmond, raising suspicions of money laundering.
So why were investigators at the B.C. Lottery Corporation ordered to back off? Steve Beeksma, an anti-money laundering employee and former casino surveillance staffer at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation’s River Rock Casino, told the Cullen Commission that he believed managers there had complained to about “aggressive” questioning of high rollers.
Beeksma and Ross Alderson, another Lottery Corp. investigator at River Rock, were called into a meeting in 2012 with Lottery Corp. Vice President Terry Towns. It pertained to suspicious gambling causing a red flag to be raised. It came down to “refining currency” to reduce small bills in favor of larger more easily banked large denominations.
Beeksma believed that casino management had complained to the Lottery Corp. that Alderson’s questioning would lead to fewer patrons. In the aftermath of the meeting with Towns, Beeksma said that front-line Lottery Corp. money-laundering investigators felt they could not intervene against suspicious transactions.
Cash transactions of anywhere from $460,000 to $800,000 and above started to become common after 2010 in Lottery Corp.casinos. A conflict between Lottery Corp. investigators and River Rock casino management brought concerns to the forefront.
Of course, such transactions could be proceeds of crime, Beeksma said, but River Rock management felt that employees did not need to report dealings as suspicious.
As one example, a Lottery Corp. review showed that an unidentified River Rock Casino manager went out for dinner with a female patron and gifts were exchanged. The woman had already been observed receiving $50,000 in cash in a casino washroom from a person previously banned as a loan shark, according to Cullen Commission counsel Patrick McGowan. McGowan asked Beeksma if he had questioned the casino manager about the incident.
According to Beeksma,
“It was out of the ordinary and I attended (the general manager’s)
office. He asked about the integration of an unusual transaction…
the manager had put himself in a pretty precarious position.”
Similarly, Beeksma also testified that in the early 2000s, at another Great Canadian Gaming casino in Richmond, staff allowed known loan sharks to operate.
Beeksma accepted that Great Canadian’s reporting of suspicious transactions helped police identify casino loan sharks. The company has denied any wrongdoing in relation to casino money laundering.
The Cullen Commission is tasked with probing dirty money in casinos and real estate. Their role is to determine the existence of corruption in British Columbia.
Recently, the Commission heard that money laundering is a Canada-wide problem, but B.C. appears to have more high-level organized crime groups and professional money-laundering networks than other provinces.
Allegedly, British Columbia and Ontario provide a base of operations for an elite network of professional money launderers. Scrutiny on B.C. casinos and new “source of funds” laws introduced in 2018 have caused methods of money laundering to evolve. Criminals are now targeting casinos in other Canadian provinces where similar regulations don’t exist.