The Cullen Commission Hears River Rock Casino Corrupts Richmond

The Cullen Commission and money laundering

The Cullen Commission, set up to investigate money laundering in British Columbia, has had another busy week of hearings. New evidence surfacing highlights underhanded activities at the River Rock Casino and Resort. 

Criminal activities associated with the gambling industry were spotlighted during another week of cross-examinations at the Cullen Commission.  During the latest deliberations, Ward Clapham, former superintendent at the gaming policy and enforcement branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Richmond, disclosed damning evidence relating to money laundering in the area and, in particular, the River Rock Casino and Resort.    

The inquiry has heard that River Rock Casino has been viewed as a hotbed of money laundering activities for years.  It is reported that the casino has become a one-stop-shop for high rollers, who regularly frequent the casino with duffel bags full of money bills.  As recorded on the casino CCTV, local loan sharks, who have been fuelling the high roller activities, have also been implicated in the process.  

The Cullen Commission Debates River Rock Casino’s Negative Impact on Richmond

The latest round of the Cullen Commission hearings took place during the last week of October.  Clapham, who started keeping a close eye on the casino in 2004, noted that Richmond experienced a shift immediately after River Rock Casino launched operations. 

At the time, Clapham identified the casino as a “growing monster”, with a surge in loan sharking, extortions and kidnapping taking place on the resort’s premises.  During the same period, the number of illegal gambling dens grew, drawing organised crime opportunists from other areas ready to grab a slice of the profits. 

Spiralling Security Allocations

As a result of the surge in illegal activities, it became clear that the authorities needed additional funds to continue monitoring the casino.  At the time, the  City of Richmond received a request for extra funding but turned it down, stating that no further funds could be set aside for policing since the federal RCMP was already monitoring the venue.  

It was only in 2007 that the casino got four additional police officers to keep a close eye on the premises and the surrounding area.  The Cullen Commission heard that, to date, the security allocations had reached C$8,5 million.

Controversies Surrounding River Rock Casino

Richmond’s River Rock Casino and Resort is a popular destination for those seeking gambling and entertainment. The casino opened its doors in 2004 and has since become one of the largest casinos in the province, with over 1,000 slot machines, table games, and a poker room. However, several controversies have been linked to the casino over the years.

One of the most significant controversies surrounding the River Rock Casino is its alleged involvement in money laundering. In 2018, an investigation by the British Columbia government revealed that millions of dollars in suspicious cash from gamblers, thought to be proceeds of crime, were accepted by the casino.

The investigation also found that the casino had failed to report suspicious transactions as required by law. As a result, the British Columbia government has set up the Cullen Commission to investigate money laundering at casinos across the province, including the River Rock Casino.

Another controversy involving the River Rock Casino is its proximity to the Vancouver International Airport. Some critics argue that the casino’s location makes it easy for criminals to move large amounts of cash in and out of the country without detection. Additionally, the casino’s location near residential neighbourhoods has led to complaints from locals about noise and traffic.

In 2020, the River Rock Casino was also criticised for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some employees claimed that the casino did not take adequate measures to protect them from the virus, leading to outbreaks among staff members. Furthermore, the casino was entangled in sexual assault complaints in 2016.

Despite these controversies, the River Rock Casino remains a popular destination for gambling and entertainment in Richmond. However, various allegations and disputes have tarnished its reputation.

About the Cullen Commission of Inquiry

The Cullen Commission is a public inquiry established by the British Columbia government to investigate money laundering in the province. The commission was established in May 2019, and its mandate is to examine money laundering in various sectors of the economy, including real estate, casinos, and financial institutions.

Austin Cullen, a former British Columbia Supreme Court judge. heads the commission. Cullen is responsible for leading the inquiry into money laundering by hearing evidence and making recommendations to the government.

The investigations heard about widespread money laundering networks in British Columbia’s casinos, real estate, and luxury car markets. This illicit activity is believed to be linked to organised crime, drug trafficking, and tax evasion.

The Cullen Commission is expected to make several recommendations to address the issue of money laundering in British Columbia. These will likely include improving regulatory and enforcement measures. Additionally, there should be an increase in transparency and accountability within the real estate and casino sectors. Finally, the legislators will look at passing more stringent anti-money laundering laws. 

Overall, the Cullen Commission plays a vital role in exposing the extent and impact of money laundering in British Columbia. The commission’s expected recommendations will help prevent future illicit activities.

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