BC River Rock, Starlight casinos saw $27M in suspicious transactions this spring
A CBC News investigation has discovered a rush of suspicious money totalling almost $27 million flowed through two B.C. casinos this spring.
Most of the mystery money that came in from mid-March to mid-June arrived in bundles of $20 bills — a common currency used to buy street drugs.
With cash transactions at casinos, the source of the money is unknown and there is the possibility that gangsters are using the system to launder dirty money: buying in, but not necessarily betting, and then cashing out the credit and claiming the income as winnings.
Three years ago, the B.C. government said it would move away from large cash transactions at casinos in a move to crack down on suspected money laundering, but critics say that clearly hasn’t happened.
Documents obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that in three months, $2.5 million in suspicious transactions occurred at New Westminster’s Starlight Casino, and $24 million was flagged as suspicious at Richmond’s River Rock Casino.
In some cases, people arrived with shopping bags and suitcases packed full of bills in $20 and $50 denominations.
One person brought in $800,000 in twenties. Another showed up one day with $1.1 million in cash.
In all, 500 reports of suspicious transactions were obtained through CBC News’ information request. The documents show that most of the cases were red-flagged by casino security and the incidents filed with the province’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, but police were almost never called in.
In 2011, documents obtained by CBC News showed that the same two casinos were part of suspicious transactions, but in a similar time period the total amount of flagged exchanges came to just $8 million.
Mike Farnworth, the NDP’s finance critic, said the sum total of the incidents from just this spring shows the government’s promises three years ago haven’t yet made a difference.
“They haven’t done, I think, any meaningful changes since that time and that shows by the FOI results that CBC has obtained,” he said.
The province insists the switch to electronic cash transactions is ongoing, and the amount exchanged in traceable transactions is growing.
[via CBC News]