Probe into loan shark 'ruffled' casino bosses, money laundering inquiry hears

Hina Alam
·3 min read

VANCOUVER — A former RCMP officer "ruffled some feathers" at the Great Canadian Casinos following an investigation of a loan shark at British Columbia's largest casino, an inquiry into money laundering heard Friday.

Tom Robertson, a former investigator with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, told the inquiry he sent an email in 2005 to one of his supervisors after he investigated a person believed to be a loan shark at the River Rock Casino.

Although there were no charges laid, Robertson testified he came to understand from casino officials that such an investigation in legal gambling venues was not part of the mandate of the enforcement branch.

"My decision appears to have possibly ruffled some feathers with a representative of the Great Canadian Casinos," said Robertson's email, which was read out to the inquiry.

Kyle McCleery, a B.C. government lawyer, asked Robertson how he came to believe that he had displeased the official.

"I believe when my investigators went to the casino there was some pushback as far as our getting involved," he said of the investigation into the loan shark.

McCleery asked Robertson if he was told by his supervisor that investigations into money laundering in the legal casinos was not part of the mandate of his branch.

"I don't specifically recall him expressing that, but that's clearly what I said at the time," he replied.

Robertson said in the email he was told his investigations were to be conducted on illegal gaming venues, not in legal venues such as the River Rock.

He told Ashley Gardner, a government of Canada lawyer, that he believed the gaming enforcement branch did not have the capacity to take on money laundering or investigations of casinos.

"You have an understanding of what some of the complexities of investigating money laundering or proceeds of crime investigations might be?" she asked.

Robertson said they would include identifying the source of the funds and the criminal activity that created them, which would take considerable time and resources.

The inquiry was called by the provincial government after reports outlined how money laundering in the province helped to fuel the real estate, luxury vehicle and gambling sectors.

Earlier Friday, a former RCMP officer told the inquiry into money laundering that there was "tangible tension" between the two B.C. policing teams working to prevent illegal gaming in the province.

Fred Pinnock, who was in charge of the now-defunct illegal gaming enforcement team, testified that he felt the RCMP needed to have an increased police presence in casinos and racetracks, but the suggestion wasn't "warmly received."

Pinnock told the inquiry this week that his team had been working in partnership with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, but he had to move his staff to a different area of the building because of the rising tensions between the two groups.

He told the inquiry this week his RCMP superiors' expectations in working with the branch were to "play nicely, get along," because they didn't expect big things from his team.

Pinnock retired from the RCMP in 2008 and the illegal gaming enforcement team was disbanded the following year.

McCleery asked Robertson whether he was told by anyone in government that the presence of RCMP in casinos would present a "bad image and shake public confidence" in legal gaming in the province.

"I do recall some discussion, but (I'm) not sure who with," Robertson replied.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2020.

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press