Cullen Commission Turns Focus To River Rock
Though only a few days into the next phase of hearings, the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia has already managed to unearth more shocking information. The hearings have delved into the unsavoury goings-on reported to have taken place at the height of the province’s financial crimes and money-laundering era. Hearing on Tuesday of how the rise of Richmond’s River Rock Casino and Resort had caused a noticeable shift to be felt from a policing point of view, the focus on the venue’s central role played in all manners of dirty money and corruption practically continued where it left off late last year.
What also emerged a recurring theme this week was how senior management at the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) had told casino investigators to refrain from investigating and/or interview high rollers suspected of either having knowledge or possibly even being guilty themselves of money laundering, loansharking, financial fraud, and so on.
Investigators Told To Stand Down
According to Tuesday’s testimony by BCLC casino investigator Stone Lee, former BCLC Vice President of Corporate Security and Compliance, Terry Towns, had in 2012 told a group of casino investigators to stand down on questioning patrons he considered at the time to be serious gamblers, i.e. high rollers – and in particular, serious gamblers known to frequent Richmond’s River Rock Casino and Resort.
Lee, at the time stationed at River Rock Casino and Resort, recalled how he and others investigating casinos in the province, had interpreted the order handed down by Towns to have been a strong message along the lines of anyone investigating big spenders at the casino to be well advised to stop whatever it was that they were doing at the time.
Rod Baker Repeatedly Implicated
Another name to have repeatedly come up during Tuesday’s hearings was that of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GCGC) President and CEO Rod Baker. The commission heard how Baker had been the individual who had told Towns that the operator was opposed to high rollers being interviewed by investigators, as said interviews put a damper on revenues and were, in effect, bad for business.
Baker was allegedly particularly opposed to BCLC officials and uniformed police officials going into River Rock Casino’s VIP salons. This according to the testimony delivered by Stone Lee. In fact, continued Lee, GCGC officials were as early as 2005 notably concerned about law enforcement activity and visibility on River Rock’s casino floor.
This averment was then backed up by a testimony delivered by former Richmond RCMP Chief Ward Clapham, who testified how he had during that same year received a phone call from a GCGC executive informing him at the time how police officer patrols were affecting business revenue income at the venue.
The former chief of police closed off his testimony by informing Commissioner Cullen how he had considered River Rock Casino a growing monster at the time of his term in office.