British Columbia

B.C. money laundering inquiry set to begin February

The Cullen Commission looking into British Columbia's money laundering problem in casinos, horse race tracks, and real estate has confirmed the dates for its public hearings.

Commission will hear opening statements starting Feb. 24; main hearings to get underway by September

Others with standing in the inquiry in addition to the B.C. Lottery Corporation include the B.C. Ministry of Finance, the federal government, the Canadian Gaming Association and the B.C. Real Estate Association. (The Associated Press)

A commission charged with looking into British Columbia's money laundering problem has confirmed the dates for its public hearings. 

In an email Thursday, the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia said it will begin hearing opening statements from stakeholders — participants granted formal standing at the hearings — over the course of four days beginning Feb. 24, at the Federal Court of Canada in Vancouver, B.C.

Another five-week period, beginning May 25, will deal with an overview of money laundering and regulatory models, as well as the extent of illegal activity in the province.

The main hearings beginning in September will deal with more than a dozen identified areas of illegal activity in the B.C. economy, from gambling transactions on the floor of some of Metro Vancouver's biggest casinos, to cash transactions for luxury goods and online trading of cryptocurrency.

A casino employee surveys bundles of $20 bills in a photograph released by the B.C. attorney general's office as an illustration of money laundering. (B.C. Ministry of Attorney General)

The Cullen Commission, which is named after B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen, was first announced in May, 2019 by Premier John Horgan, after a series of reports revealed the enormous scale of B.C.'s money laundering problem.

Former RCMP illegal gaming enforcement commander Fred Pinnock became the whistleblower when he began speaking out publicly about what he had observed in his official role with the force.

The commission is still determining if Pinnock will be granted standing in the probe.

British Columbia Lottery Corp. senior executive Brad Demarais was denied separate standing as an individual, although he could still be called as a witness.

Official inquiry dates

Feb. 24 – 28

  • Commission to hear participant opening statements.

May 25 – June 26

  • Counsel considers overview and extent of money-laundering in the province.

Sept. 8 – Dec. 22

  • Main hearings to address specific issues:
    • Gaming, casinos, horseracing
    • Real estate
    • Professional services, including accounting and legal
    • Corporate sector
    • Financial institutions and money services
    • Luxury goods
    • Cryptocurrency
    • Cash-based businesses
    • Trade-based money laundering
    • Other sectors
    • Asset recovery
    • Enforcement and regulation
    • Government response
    • Other jurisdictions' approaches

The role of the commission is to investigate and determine where and how money laundering is taking place in the province. It is not able to convict or find liability but is expected to issue recommendations in its final report in May, 2021.

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