It's a 'sad exercise' blaming past politicians for money laundering failures, says B.C. Liberal leader

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson sat down with Gloria Macarenko, the host of CBC’s On The Coast, to talk about what the Liberal government did and could have done better.

The B.C. Liberals were in power during the ‘decade of dirty money’ laid out in new report

"Remember, we are dealing with crooks here and they are slippery and evasive," says B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Money laundering in casinos across the Lower Mainland reached a peak in 2015, according to a report from former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German.

After releasing the report Wednesday, Attorney General David Eby put the blame on the previous B.C. Liberal government — saying it failed to address the problem for years despite warning signs.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson sat down with Gloria Macarenko, the host of CBC's On The Coast, to talk about what the Liberal government did and could have done better.

There's a chapter of the report that lays out a timeline of money laundering called, A Decade of Dirty Money.

The B.C. Liberals were in government for that decade. Why wasn't more done to address the problem?

I wasn't directly involved during that time but my understanding is that there were efforts that did not succeed.

There was a recognition in 2011 by employees in the lottery business and the casino business that there was money laundering of significant interest.

The minister ordered an investigation and they embarked on a plan to address it. It was not successful because the perpetrators were canny enough to get around what they did.

There was then again another renewed effort in 2015 with the creation of the joint illegal gaming investigation team.

That proved to be much more effective and actually drove down the suspicious activity by about 60 per cent.

But look at what happened leading up to 2015 when it really reached its peak.

In 2004, the province and the RCMP created this special unit to investigate gaming crime.

Five years later in 2009, despite growing reports of suspicious transactions, the government ended that program. Why?

My understanding is that the conclusion of the law enforcement officials is that it wasn't an effective approach.

Remember, we are dealing with crooks here and they are slippery and evasive.

If the law enforcement officials come to the senior government officials and recommend that an approach is ineffective, obviously it's time to re-gig and do something differently.

Since the release of the report, we've heard from the public saying they want someone to be held accountable.

What do you say to the people who feel your party stood by while drug dealers easily laundered cash, fuelling the drug trade?

Peter German has done a good job of suggesting remedial efforts that can be taken in the future, but I'm not about to judge any police officer or civil servant and nor am I in a position to criticize any minister of the crown.

We need to focus on fixing this problem in the future, and laying blame on politics in the past is a rather sad exercise when the problem is to catch the perpetrators and not blame the politicians.

This interview aired on CBC's On The Coast on June 28 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the full interview, click on the audio below.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson sat down with Gloria Macarenko, the host of CBC's On The Coast, to talk about what the Liberal government did and could have done better. 10:57

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