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Inquiry hears players stayed away from B.C. casinos after organized-crime arrests

B.C. launched inquiry after reports illegal cash was helping fuel real estate, luxury car and gambling
Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos is scheduled to testify today at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

An inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia has heard the arrests of several people tied to organized crime and illegal gaming in 2017 led to dramatic reductions in revenue at casinos, but only temporarily.

Daryl Tottenham, manager of anti-money laundering programs for the B.C. Lottery Corp., testified Thursday that high-end players weren’t the only ones who stayed away for two to three weeks.

“We saw reductions across the board,” Tottenham said Thursday, adding fewer patrons had a “ghost-town effect” on casinos.

Tottenham, who left his policing job in 2011 to became a casino investigator with the lottery corporation, said casinos drew people known for connections to organized crime.

They included Kwok Chung Tam, a Chinese national who was banned from B.C. casinos in 2012 for five years for his involvement in cash deliveries before a further five-year ban in 2017 related to gang associations and criminal activity, he said.

The commission is also expected to hear Thursday from a former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos.

Fred Pinnock tried to get standing at the inquiry, arguing that his observations led him to conclude the public was being misled about the nature and degree of money laundering in the province.

Inquiry commissioner Austin Cullen denied the request last year.

Pinnock’s lawyer told Cullen the inquiry would not exist without his client, who took early retirement in 2008.

Pinnock was the officer in charge of the integrated illegal gaming enforcement team.

B.C.’s New Democrat government launched the inquiry after reports that illegal cash was helping to fuel the real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors in B.C.

READ MORE: B.C. money laundering inquiry hears of $800,000 and more in bags, luggage, backpacks

The Canadian Press

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