British Columbia

Money-laundering inquiry calls back ex-minister over inconsistencies during 1st round of testimony

A formal inquiry into the issue of money laundering in B.C. is calling a former cabinet minister back to the stand to testify for a second time after CBC News pointed out inconsistencies in his testimony the first time around.

Rich Coleman's stated reaction to media reports under oath contradicted his reaction in 2011

Then-minister Rich Coleman speaks to media in Victoria on Feb. 15, 2017. Coleman told the Cullen inquiry into money laundering in B.C. on April 23 he never turned a blind eye to the problem during his decades in cabinet. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

A formal inquiry into the issue of money laundering in B.C. is calling a former cabinet minister back to the stand to testify for a second time over inconsistencies in his first round of sworn testimony.

Rich Coleman, a six-term former Liberal member of the B.C. Legislature, will have to testify before the Cullen Commission again on May 14, sources confirmed Wednesday.

CBC News reported last week that Coleman had contradicted himself on April 28 during his initial testimony.

He was asked about media reports in the early 2010s highlighting the problem of dirty cash in Lower Mainland casinos.  He said he'd seen a CBC News investigation in 2011 that detailed how $8 million in suspected drug money flowed unchecked through two casinos in three months.

Testifying under oath, Coleman told lawyers the story would have worried him.

"It would have been concerning to me because my understanding, all the way through the file, is it wasn't possible [to launder money that way]," Coleman said.

But that's not what he said at the time the article published. 

WATCH | When Coleman testified in April at the inquiry, he gave conflicting testimony about reports of dirty money pouring into casinos under his watch a decade earlier:

Former B.C. gaming minister gave conflicting testimony during money laundering inquiry

9 months ago
Duration 2:27
When B.C.'s former solicitor general Rich Coleman testified in April 2021 at the province's money laundering inquiry, he gave conflicting testimony about news reports of dirty money pouring into casinos under his watch a decade earlier. 2:27

 

Coleman told CBC in a follow-up interview in 2011 he did not "agree with" concerns raised in the article by RCMP Insp. Barry Baxter, who suspected the avalanche of cash coming into casinos was full of dirty money.

Coleman said Baxter's comments were "offside" and that he'd gone to the officer's superiors.

"I don't agree with him and neither do all the superiors of his in the RCMP and that's why I said to them, 'OK, guys, we're gonna have a look at this. These comments came from you. I want them backed up,'" Coleman told CBC in 2011.

Last Wednesday at the commission, Coleman denied he'd spoken to Baxter's higher-ups.

'No, I did not'

"Did you do anything in response to the comments that were made by Insp. Baxter?" asked commission lawyer Brock Martland.

"No, I did not," Coleman replied.

"OK, you didn't speak with others at RCMP?" Martland said.

"No, I did not."

The Cullen commission is meant to determine where and how money laundering has been happening in B.C., why it's been allowed to continue and whether it can be prevented in the future.

The province called the inquiry in 2018 after reports detailed how more than $100 million had been cleaned in B.C.'s gaming, luxury car and real estate sectors over a decade-and-a-half.

Coleman was one of several former cabinet ministers called to testify. He and the other politicians were grilled on whether they knew about the scope of the problem and whether they acted to investigate or solve the problem, which distorted the provincial economy for years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

With files from Belle Puri

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