Former premier Christy Clark says her government 'adequately addressed' illegal cash in B.C. casinos
VANCOUVER -- In a long-awaited and unusual appearance of a former B.C. premier, Christy Clark testified at a public inquiry on money laundering on Tuesday.
Clark said that her government took adequate steps to address the illegal cash that was flowing through the province’s casinos, and that it worked with the information available to it at the time.
“We were not a government that was primarily interested in trying to get more revenue,” Clark testified. “That’s just not who we were.”
During the testimony, Clark, who was premier from 2011-17, denied accusations that her government prioritized earning money from gaming activities over stopping suspected criminal activity.
Under Clark’s tenure, three different ministers were responsible for the gaming portfolio: Shirley Bond, Rich Coleman, and Mike De Jong. All are expected to testify in the coming weeks.
David Eby, B.C.’s current attorney general who appointed retired B.C. Supreme Court justice Austin Cullen to lead the inquiry in 2019, will also testify.
Clark told the commission that while she was aware that money laundering was a significant problem, she wasn’t notified by De Jong about a “spike” in suspicious cash flowing through B.C. casinos until 2015.
She testified her government responded two weeks later by creating the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team, or JIGIT, a joint task law enforcement task force, because ultimately, Clark said, “the problem…that needed to be addressed was the lack of cooperation between the agencies.”
Lawyer Toby Rauch-Davis, who represents a coalition that includes Transparency International Canada, challenged Clark, asking what steps her government took to investigate the millions of dollars in suspicious $20 bills flowing through casinos that were highlighted in media reports as early as 2011.
“It’s not government’s job to investigate crime,” Clark retorted. “That’s why we have law enforcement.”
However, when the commission’s questions turned to the matter of how cash washing in B.C. casinos has impacted the affordability of housing prices in the province, the former premier denied any responsibility.
“Housing prices are now at record highs. The crisis is far worse than it was five years ago,” Clark said. “I would just be careful about drawing conclusions that money laundering was the source of all that growth.”
Clark added that no one from law enforcement or in her government ever suggested that rising housing prices were a result of money laundering.
And she said her government never commissioned a report to look into that because none of their advisers “had ever suggested it was a significant reason (impacting affordability).”
Clark also appeared to take some degree of credit for current efforts to combat illegal cash in B.C.’s casinos as well as inroads into organized crime.
“Government made a significant effort to address money laundering,” Clark said. “And I think we’re seeing the fruits of that (now).”
B.C.’s public inquiry into money laundering began after three reports outlined how hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash affected the province's real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors.
The Cullen Commission aims to better understand how money laundering flourished in B.C., including through casinos.
The province has given Cullen an extended deadline of Dec. 15 to report his findings.