2019.04.29

B.C. Liberal minister overlooked money laundering warning and allowed higher betting limit for Chinese VIPS

In a shocking revelation that has sent shockwave everywhere, it has been found that some B.C officials allowed the B.C. Lottery Corp. to hike the betting limits to certain Chinese VIPs. This took place despite the warning given about money laundering risks. The then finance minister, (in 2015) Mike de Jong said that disputed “senior-level intervention” was done in public interest. It was meant to hike revenue of the casinos in the province. 

Amidst allegations of negligence leading to the infamous Chinese gangs indulge in money laundering in BC, an analysis of important govt records reveal that the fianance ministry’s endeavors played a role behind it. It was from late 2010 that the GPEB had cautioned the BCLC about huge cash transactions involving those Chinese VIPs in the province.

Sadly, the BCLC managers did the opposite. They went on hiking the baccarat limits from $5000 to a staggering $100,000. They did not heed to the regulator’s proposed method of capping VIP buy-ins. In fact, the BCLC countered the GPEB’s complaint about the VIPs bringing $200,000 or even more by saying those affluent Mainland Chinese businessmen were habituated to gambling with such amounts of cash.

The freedom of information data shows in 2013, the dispute between the 2 entities reached a peak. In fact, when the GPEB wanted to thwart BCLC’s efforts to hike VIP betting limits prior to Chinese New year in 2014, the BCLC sought senior intervention. 

Michael Graydon, the former BCLC chief executive sent a letter to GPEB’s John Mazure in Dec 2013 and 2 months back, former BCLC, Vice-president Jim Lightbody pressed the finance ministry. The dispute between these 2 entities made the former finance minister de Jong who reviewed the situation. These records were uncovered in 2015 by David Eby, who is now the attorney general of BC. At that time, he was the NDP government opposition critic. 

However, some confusion exists regarding who actually signed the approval in de Jong’s office to approve the so-called revenue-generating changes. The documents were found, but these didn’t have De Jong’s signature. De Jong an MLA for Abbotsford-West has a distinct view on the issue. After the dispute and the Finance Ministry directive for hiking betting limits to the level of $100,000, the revenues of BCLC shot up. 

The govt records show Suspicious cash transactions linked to the Chinese VIPs were on the rise since 2010. The instances of money laundering in some BCLC casinos reached a peak in the 2014 -2015 fiscal. From revelations, it became clear that the cash transactions were linked to a Richmond organized crime kingpin named Paul King Jin. Eventually, the BCLC found links to the RCMP organized crime leaders. The casino money-laundering probe was started in early 2015.

Allegedly, the CEO of BCLC- Jim Lightbody did not show any concern. BCLC expected to exceed net income target of $1.2 billion after betting limit hike. While the Chinese VIPs did come with bags full of money, Lightbody insisted the corporation as well as the casinos adhered to the regulations.

However, the reality proved to be quite different! The E pirates probe revealed that those VIPs were involved in an organized crime scheme. It was alleged that Paul King Jin pumped in $23.5 million through cash to those VIPs playing at the BCLC casinos. He was caught running illegal baccarat casinos in Richmond for the Chinese VIPs. No charges have been filed against Jin though, so far. 

BCLC has said on its part that it is trying to adhere to the anti-money laundering measures, but it has not made Lightbody available for interview. 

It is likely that the repercussions of the Chinese VIP syndicate money laundering will be felt across BC for some more time even after discovery of the covert operations. In a 2010 letter to BCLC, Derek Dickson, the director of casino investigations of GPEB expressed concerns about the boost in doubtful cash transactions Vancouver-area BCLC casinos. He warned about patrons arriving with cash indulging in a large cash transaction. He also cited specific transaction cases that appeared highly dubious. 

The Integrated Proceeds of Crime Unit and GPEB were seriously concerned about the BC casinos being used as hubs for large scale money laundering. The two entities actually initiated an active investigation to bust a gang of loan sharks and some VIPs operating at the River Rock Casino. That investigation, however ended in late 2011. It was only after repeated nods from the government the fresh investigations were launched which unearthed the scams. 

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