British Columbia·CBC Investigates

Bonuses paid to B.C. Lottery Corp. investigators raise concerns

Documents obtained under B.C.'s Freedom of Information Act reveal that more than half a million dollars in bonuses was paid to investigators and their managers over a four-year period. Bonuses in part were based on profits made by BCLC.

Documents obtained by CBC show bonuses partly awarded based on BCLC's profits

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)

Records obtained by CBC News reveal that investigators and their managers working for the B.C. Lottery Corporation were awarded bonuses partly based on profits at a time when suspicious money laundering practices at casinos were ramping up.

The documents, which were obtained under B.C.'s Freedom of Information Act,  reveal that more than half a million dollars in bonuses were paid to investigators and their managers over a four year period ending in 2014.

Their jobs involved the investigation of criminal wrongdoing at casinos. 

The bonuses were handed out based on BCLC reaching certain financial targets, as well as individual performance.

Joe Schalk, a former senior director of investigations with the branch of the B.C. government that regulates gambling, told CBC News that the lottery corporation's practice of paying bonuses for investigators to do their jobs "never did sit right with me."

Video released by B.C's attorney general shows casino customers bringing in bags of cash to one of B.C.'s casinos in an apparent act of money laundering. (B.C. Attorney General)

'It just seems wrong'

The fact that the bonuses in part were based on the B.C. Lottery Corporation making certain profit targets  is "almost a conflict" said Schalk. "It just seems wrong….the perception might be the suspicious currency that comes in or is allowed to come in, maybe the higher the bonuses", said Schalk.

Earlier this year B.C. Attorney General David Eby ordered an independent review of money laundering in casinos in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. The report, called Dirty Money, found that B.C.'s casinos "unwittingly served as laundromats" for the proceeds of crime.

The report's author, former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German, said more than $100 million in dirty money had been laundered at B.C. casinos amid a "collective system failure."

Bonuses between 3.6% to 9.6%

The documents reveal that BCLC investigators and their managers, whose responsibilities often included  gathering and analyzing evidence for criminal investigations and other gambling laws, received bonuses ranging from 3.6 per cent to 9.6 per cent between 2010 and 2014.

The bulk of the bonuses were between six and eight per cent.

The records show investigators earned base salaries ranging from $61,000 to $84,000 a year, while managers of security or of investigations took home between $78,000 to $102,000. 

Bonuses were extra.

In 2013, an anti money laundering manager was paid $102,000 and received a bonus of 6.34 per cent or $6,469.38, in addition to their pay that year.

Joe Schalk, a former senior director of investigations with B.C.'s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch says it seems wrong B.C. Lottery investigators were paid bonuses based, in part, on how much money BCLC made. (Joe Schalk)

"It astounds me in a way" said Schalk.

"At that time, the amount of suspicious currency that was coming into the casinos was just increasing by the millions and millions and millions of dollars each year, to where in 2014 it was $175 million plus, where just five years before it had been $60 to $70 million being reported."  Seventy-five per cent of that was in $20 bills, he added.

Bonus system ended

The practice of awarding bonuses for all staff ended at BCLC in April 2014, following a change in government policy.

 After that time, only managers and executive staff became eligible for the "holdback" program, where a percentage of salary is held back each year and only awarded if they and BCLC meet certain financial and individual "objectives." 

Schalk, who is also a former police officer, doesn't think that anyone investigating wrongdoing should receive bonuses for just  doing their job. That bonuses at BCLC were tied to the corporation's financial success he found particularly troubling.

"It doesn't seem right that a bonus system should apply for the intake of money," he said.

"B.C. Lottery Corporation has responsibility for the conduct and management of gaming. It could have stopped accepting suspicious currency at any time," he added.

With files from Eric Rankin and Bethany Lindsay

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