DIRTY-CASH TRAIN ‘INSIDER’ READY TO ROCK BRITISH COLUMBIA LOTTERY CORPORATION MONEY-LAUNDERING INQUIRY…
Casino insider Ross Alderson said he warned officials about potential money laundering. Now he wants to tell all to B.C.’s new public inquiry.
He’s one of the most knowledgeable casino insiders in British Columbia, a whistleblower who sounded the alarm on rampant money laundering infecting the industry and the province.
And now that the B.C. government has launched a public inquiry into all that dirty loot, Ross Alderson is ready to reveal what he knows.
“Bring it on,” said Alderson, the former director of anti-money laundering at the B.C. Lottery Corporation.
“I’m really pleased this inquiry has been called. I want to testify and I know many others do, too. The public deserves to know what happened.”
Alderson, 48, is a former police officer who started working at the lottery corporation in 2008 as an investigator. He later became manager of investigations for online gambling, and then head of anti-money laundering for the Crown corporation in 2015.
That brought him frequently to the River Rock Casino in Richmond, the biggest in B.C., where he was stunned by the large volumes of cash transactions he witnessed.
“I had a front-row seat,” Alderson said. “Individuals would walk into the casino with bags stuffed with cash. Everyone has seen the surveillance videos of that. It was clearly suspicious. But, for a long time, nobody wanted to ask where that money came from.”
It was Alderson who wrote many of the internal reports on suspicious cash transactions at the River Rock that were later leaked to the media.
The reports were also given to Peter German, the former RCMP officer brought in by the new NDP government to produce last year’s bombshell Dirty Money report.
But, despite sounding the alarm, Alderson said the dirty-cash train kept rolling.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” he said. “If you drive over the speed limit, you can get a speeding ticket. You’re held accountable. But if you laundered millions of dollars, there was no accountability.
“This public inquiry is necessary. People need to go to jail.”
Alderson produced an internal BCLC report in September 2015 that warned high-rolling “whale” gamblers at the River Rock were likely laundering cash derived from organized crime.
And a November 2016 presentation he prepared for regulators showed the vast majority of the biggest-betting casino gamblers came from China and many were connected to the real-estate business.
“The casinos were like a gateway for a lot of the other money-laundering,” he said. “I’m not surprised Peter German’s later reports revealed money-laundering in real estate and luxury car sales. It’s all connected.”
Alderson resigned from the lottery corporation in 2017 and said he has since been threatened with legal action for speaking to the press about his experiences.
“That’s why I think this public inquiry is so important,” he said. “People need to be given a chance to testify without fear of being sued.”
Premier John Horgan announced the inquiry last week, appointing B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen as inquiry commissioner.
The inquiry call came after another provincial report estimated the scale of money-laundering in B.C. at more than $7 billion last year alone, enough to drive up home prices by five per cent.
Cullen has been given subpoena powers to force witnesses to testify and produce evidence. He will hold public hearings and is scheduled to produce a final report by May 2021 — five months before the next scheduled provincial election.
The timetable has some B.C. Liberals complaining.
“This is a complete waste of taxpayers’ money,” fumed former Liberal MLA Kash Heed, solicitor general in the previous Liberal government. “It is politically driven to be able to point fingers at the NDP’s opponents, not to determine fault and hold people accountable.”
The Liberals were in power for 16 years until the New Democrats took over in 2017. Reports say money laundering in casinos peaked while the Liberals were in control.
Heed said the government doesn’t need an expensive, politically timed public inquiry to clean up the mess.
“We already know where the mistakes were made,” he said. “We know how to fix it right now.”
But other Liberals said the inquiry is necessary, even if it does inflict damage on politicians.
“The schedule does seem partisan, going right to a few months before the next election,” said former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, who finished second in last year’s Liberal leadership race won by Andrew Wilkinson.
“But the truth is the truth and the truth must come out. This inquiry is necessary.”
She also pointed out the New Democrats could take some political flak in the inquiry, too.
“It was the NDP who brought in slot machines and raised casino betting limits in the 1990s,” she said. “Everyone needs to bear responsibility for what they did or didn’t do.”
For Alderson, that includes finding out why the previous Liberal government shut down the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team, a police unit that warned about casino crime as far back as 2009.
“When you have a policing organization writing reports about organized crime infiltrating casinos, and then it gets shut down, people should question that,” he said. “That’s something the public inquiry should look into.”
Mike Smyth – theprovince.com