Canada’s Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) filed a lawsuit in January 2016 against two individuals who were suspected of money laundering in British Columbia casinos. The lawsuit highlighted the fact that money laundering has become a major issue at B.C casinos as turning dirty money into clean money was a simple process.
The British Columbia government has taken these allegations seriously and decided to form a special Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team that will specifically target suspicious financial transactions and money laundering crimes at B.C casinos. The B.C government published a document earlier this week which stated that suspicious financial transactions were estimated to be around $119 million during the last twelve months.
Kevin Hackett, the COO of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) of B.C stated that the new investigative unit will have its work cut out for them as the current scenario at B.C casinos makes it very easy for an individual to walk into a casino with a hockey bag full of dirty cash, buy casino chips, play a few games, cash out the remaining chips and walk away with clean money.
Mike de Jong, the finance minster for British Columbia showcased a number of graphs highlighting the fact that money laundering continues to grow at a rapid pace. Based on freedom of information reports, a total of $27 million was money laundered during a three month period between the Starlight casino in New Westminster and the River Rock casino in Richmond.
The British Columbia government will work closely with the new investigative unit to track down and arrest money laundering individuals. The new unit will comprise of twenty two law enforcement officers from the CFSEU and four detectives from the B.C. Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. The new unit has an annual budget of $4.3 million and seventy percent of this budget will be financed by the B.C. Lottery Corporation.
Some officials are not very happy over the fact that the B.C Lottery Corporation will be the major financial contributor for the new task force, who are tasked with investigating casinos that are governed by the B.C Lottery corporation. However Hackett does not think that there will be any conflict of interest.
In a statement, Hackett said “Who writes the cheques is no concern of mine. My concern is to build the most effective team possible to enforce and advance the laws of the country.”
The B.C government will support the new unit by tightening its money laundering policies and has stated that a number of the policies have already been implemented. Some of those changes include ensuring that casino chips can only be utilized at any one facility, preventing the passing of casino chips on the gaming floor, promoting the use of debit cards and cheques instead of large piles of cash and implementing new restrictions on players who exchange small bills for large cash denominations.