Report warned Liberals of money laundering in B.C. casinos in 2012
A report obtained by CTV News through the Freedom of Information Act shows the now well-documented problem of money laundering in B.C. casinos had been on the former Liberal government's radar for years.
The document, which was prepared by the province's gambling watchdog in November 2012, makes reference to "suspicious cash increasing at an alarming rate," despite new measures introduced in 2011 to combat dirty money in the gaming industry.
"Organized crime has identified a weakness within Lower Mainland casinos and is exploiting this weakness to expand the laundering of large amounts of money obtained the proceeds of crime," the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch warned in the report.
Rich Coleman, who was B.C.'s gaming minister at the time, told CTV News he had seen the report and taken action.
"I gave the direction at that point in time to the director and to the deputy because obviously I can't influence investigations as a minister because I have to be at arm's-length—it would be illegal," he said," so I said 'Look, I want better results.'"
But the amount of suspicious cash flowing through casinos kept going up, reaching $60.3 million in 20-dollar bills by the end of 2012 and $72 million by the end of 2013.
A former senior director of investigations at B.C.’s gambling regulator, GPEB, claims no one seemed interested in the unsourced money at the time.
"In my opinion, they weren't prepared to listen to me and others cohorts that voiced those same concerns. Things changed. We were gone," Joe Schalk said.
In December 2014, Schalk and his colleague were brought into an office, dismissed without cause, and walked out of the building.
But the warnings resurfaced in a very public way last March in the form of a scathing report by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German which found that "large-scale, transnational money laundering has been occurring in our casinos."
On Thursday, Attorney General David Eby once again called on German to conduct a similar fact-finding study on money laundering, this time in B.C.'s lucrative real estate sector.
Eby also acknowledged Schalk and his colleague, saying "I'm aware of the story of these two particular people who worked within the Gaming Police Enforcement Branch and I'm very grateful for their efforts to bring this story forward."
Coleman, meanwhile, said he wasn't aware Schalk was let go and thought he had simply retired.
"I wasn't on the file at the time," the former minister said.
After new recommendations made this year, casinos are no longer allowed to accept any more than $10,000 in unsourced cash.
Nearly four years after he was fired, Schalk is hopeful the efforts of his colleagues will finally make a difference.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Jon Woodward