In western Canada and the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has reportedly finally released documents showing why it was fined just over $516,800 by the nation’s anti-money laundering watchdog some ten years ago.
According to a Wednesday report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the punishment from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada had represented the largest ever levied against a provincial gaming body and was said to have concerned undisclosed breaches of the nation’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.
The CBC reported that the BCLC subsequently fought this penalty decision and successfully argued that it should not be compelled to release documentation associated with the matter while its legal battle remained active. The crown corporation’s then-President and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Graydon, purportedly claimed that any such disclosures would also have the effect of tipping off money launderers as to his body’s alleged weaknesses.
Reportedly read a 2010 statement from Graydon…
“Publication would indicate to the patrons of casinos that it is possible to avoid the necessary identification, recording and reporting [of large and suspicious cash transactions], which is a message the BCLC does not wish to have made. The public notice will detract from the very considerable efforts the BCLC is making to appropriately comply. It will encourage inappropriate behavior.”
However, the money laundering watchdog reportedly dropped its enforcement action in 2017 following a complicated legal battle, which subsequently prompted the CBC to file a freedom of information request regarding the mysterious documents with both the BCLC and the Ministry of the Attorney General of British Columbia. The broadcaster purportedly detailed that this latter body later released redacted portions of some of the requested information that ultimately shed very little further light as to why the provincial casino regulator had been fined.
The CBC reported that it nevertheless persisted and eventually obtained a pledge earlier this year from the Attorney General for British Columbia, David Eby (pictured), that the withheld information would be disclosed in full. The 42-year-old purportedly proclaimed in February that the release of the documentation was ‘long overdue’ as the people of British Columbia ‘deserve to see this information’.
In the end, the CBC reported that the documents show that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada had identified seven major deficiencies in the way the BCLC had regulated land-based gambling in British Columbia between 2009 and 2010. The broadcaster purportedly detailed that these are thought to have allowed up to $739 million in dirty money to be laundered through the province’s casinos with the regulator found to have often asked venues to conduct ‘little to no verification’ on the source of funds used by high-risk clients.
The information furthermore revealed that gamblers in the western Canadian province were frequently allowed to deposit bags and suitcases filled with bundles of $20 bills, which it referred to as ‘the currency of street drugs’, after simply declaring their professions as ‘self-employed’ or ‘business owners.’
The broadcaster reported that the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada’s last examination of the BCLC in 2018 had acknowledged ‘significant progress’ in the way the regulator currently conducts anti-money laundering procedures. Nevertheless, Mike Larsen, President for the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, purportedly pronounced that the body should have come clean about its shortcomings a decade ago to avoid ‘looking like you’re being unnecessarily and perhaps conspiratorially secretive.’