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The Province of British Columbia has always seemed like a bit of a backwater — an up-and-coming province known for its pristine beauty, its “wild west” laws and its hippy-dippy social mores.
But after the shocking money-laundering revelations of last week that image is twisted. B.C. is still beautiful, but underneath there appears to be a seething cauldron of corruption that could be influencing everything from our sky-high housing prices to our massive and tragic numbers of opioid overdoses.
The NDP government has appointed an independent expert to review money laundering in the province and released a July 2016 report that found VIP gamblers can bring in bags stuffed full of $20 bills, buy chips with them, gamble a bit and then cash out with a legal cheque instead of the dirty money.
The $514 million for the new roof represents less than half of BC Lottery Corporation’s record-breaking profits this past year. The Crown corporation made $1.3 billion in net income – a whopping $96 million over budget.
That’s good news for the province’s healthcare, education and charitable and community programs, which are funded with gaming revenue. However, what it says about our society is another thing entirely.
In 2011, a group of prescient retired police officers wrote a letter to Vancouver City Council, asking them not to approve the BC Place casino development.
“Casinos and racetracks are well known for their vulnerability to the activities of gangs and organized crime — money laundering, loan sharking, extortion and prostitution, as well as for the vulnerability to public corruption which they engender,” the letter states.
It goes on to draw a link between addiction to gambling, drug dealing and suicide. The group of officers plead with the council to consider these societal costs, and not to expand the casino.
Now, faced with a buried report that’s already a year old, Attorney General David Eby has asked Peter German to review B.C.’s anti-money-laundering policies and practices.
As a lawyer, former deputy RCMP commissioner and the author of a textbook on organized crime, German is an excellent candidate to stop dirty money from corrupting B.C.’s economy.