Nine people have been arrested after a year-long investigation that identified millions of dollars being laundered through Lower Mainland casinos, according to B.C.'s gang task force.
The probe began last May when investigators say they determined that members of an alleged criminal organization behind several illegal gambling houses were helping drug traffickers launder money, as well as being involved in loan sharking, kidnapping and extortion, said assistant commissioner Kevin Hackett of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU).
"It's safe to say that we're looking at millions of dollars" being laundered," Hackett told reporters at a news conference Tuesday morning.
Investigators say the alleged crime group has links across Canada, as well as to mainland China and other countries.
"Money laundering, loan sharking and illegal gaming provide an attractive source of income for organized crime," Hackett said.
"Clients who utilize these services need to be aware that often the cash being provided to them is from illegal activity, and that using such services provides financial support to criminals and funds their illegal enterprises and operations."
Hackett offered few details about the people who have been arrested, except to say that none of them are in police custody and no charges have been laid. However, he said possible charges could include counts related to money laundering, drug trafficking, proceeds of crime and being part of a criminal organization.
In fact, investigators are revealing very little about the alleged criminal operation, explaining the investigation is still underway and that they anticipate more arrests. Hackett would not identify the casinos where the money laundering has allegedly taken place and would only say that three or four illegal gambling houses have been identified.
At least one of those establishments is located in Richmond and was searched Monday night by officers executing a warrant, Hackett added.
A total of six homes have been searched so far in the course of the investigation, and officers have seized cash and bank drafts, computers, cell phones, drug paraphernalia and several luxury vehicles — including one outfitted with a hidden compartment.
The investigation was conducted by the CFSEU's new Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team, which also includes members of the provincial government's Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch.
Officers are asking anyone with information about the alleged laundering scheme or similar operations to call 778-290-2288.