Former casino executive shouldn't be chairing Justice Institute: watchdog
Published Monday, October 1, 2018 3:00PM PDT
A key executive who once oversaw the casino labelled as the epicenter of money laundering in the province's gaming industry now has an appointment that’s raising concerns from a government watchdog: he’s the chair of the Justice Institute of B.C.
“I think it’s incredibly bad optics both for the Justice Institute and the government that appointed him,” said Dermod Travis of Integrity B.C. “The current government needs to look at the board and decide whether or not this is the type of board that it wants for the institution."
And when CTV News tried to ask Rob Kroeker about how he squares his current responsibilities to an institution that trains law enforcement with his previous job, Kroeker first agreed to be interviewed outside a JIBC Board meeting – before he stayed inside, and the door to that meeting was closed and locked.
Kroeker is a former director of B.C.’s Civil Forfeiture Office and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement. In 2011, he was tasked with writing a report that recommended strategies to cut down on money laundering at B.C. casinos.
The next year, he took a job with Great Canadian Gaming as the vice-president of compliance and security, a job he held until September 2015. That company runs the River Rock Casino.
A government report called “Dirty Money” outlined several concerns around that time, including how the River Rock accepted $24 million in suspicious cash in three months in 2014, sometimes in shopping bags.
“For many years, certain Lower Mainland casinos unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime. This represented a collective system failure,” wrote former RCMP deputy commissioner and author of the report, Peter German, pointing to years of denial and dysfunction that made for a “perfect storm that reached its apex in June 2015.”
The report says River Rock Casino broke anti-money laundering rules by only reporting buy-ins above $50,000, even though the legal threshold was $10,000.
And relations with its regulators were so tense that the provincial gambling watchdog “had all but stopped dealing with GCGC (Great Canadian Gaming Corporation) and BCLC (the B.C. Lottery Corporation) because of their differences over the handling of suspicious money,” the report says.
At the time, the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, or GPEB, was warning about the exploitation of weaknesses in Lower Mainland casinos “to expand the laundering of large amounts of money obtained through the proceeds of crime.”
Kroeker didn’t respond to attempts by CTV News to contact him, so we approached him at a public JIBC Board Meeting.
“Can we take this outside?” he responded. “Sure.”
But instead of coming outside, he remained in the meeting and the door was closed and locked.
JIBC President Michel Tarko came out next, telling CTV News that Kroeker had told him the questions had been answered by the Ministry of Advanced Education.
At that point, the ministry hadn’t responded to CTV News’s questions. Tarko then closed the door.
The provincial government says Kroeker’s appointment was made by the previous B.C. Liberal government.
“No members of the JIBC Board have been accused of criminal wrongdoing or dismissible action,” said a statement attributed to Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark.
Kroeker left Great Canadian Gaming in 2015 to become the chief compliance officer and vice-president legal, compliance, security for the B.C. Lottery Corporation, which licenses all casinos in the province.
The “Dirty Money” report describes Kroeker’s successor in the role at Great Canadian, Patrick Ennis, unilaterally deciding to stop taking money from certain sources.
“He was possibly the first individual, of all the entities and people involved in the cash influx, to say no to loan sharks,” German wrote.
The JIBC media relations office did not respond to questions about whether the incident reflects well on the school.