There are other more pressing issues that British Columbians need to focus on right now. So there will likely be little fanfare when BC Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen provides a report to the provincial government by December 15. And then there are the holidays, as well as the inevitable rise in COVID cases to take us into the New Year.
Soon after, however, Canadians will hear the results of the most comprehensive money laundering investigation ever undertaken in this country.
Since its creation in May 2019, the Cullen Commission held hearings for 138 days, heard testimony from 198 witnesses and received 1,063 exhibits. He tried to understand how the ubiquitous money from drug trafficking infected the economy of British Columbia, and more specifically how transnational criminal gangs created a way for this money to be washed up in casinos, real estate. and the luxury cars of the Lower Mainland.
It is no exaggeration to say that one man made the investigation possible, and it was not Commissioner Cullen. Ross Alderson was first an investigator for the River Rock Casino in Vancouver, then for the British Columbia Lottery Corporation which regulates casinos.
From his first day on the job, he was surprised at the amount of twenty dollar bills used by most Chinese players visiting the mainland.
As he revealed to W5 in February 2019: “There were people who came with ten thousand, twenty thousand, one hundred thousand, two hundred thousand,” Ross explained. “I mean, there was a half-million dollar cash loan at one point.”
It was Alderson’s job to report suspicious transactions to regulators, which he did. But he went further. A former police officer in Melbourne, Australia, Alderson began sharing information with the local RCMP who were investigating the link between these piles of twenty dollar bills and an underground bank in Richmond, B.C. and the international trade of the drug.
And then he took one more step. Frustrated by the lack of action to stop what he saw as a city awash in dirty money, Alderson became a valuable anonymous source for Vancouver reporter Sam Cooper.
As he testified to the Commission: âSo did I disclose information to the media? Yes I did it. But would I do it again? Yes I would like.”
Alderson ended his anonymity when he agreed to be interviewed by W5 as part of his investigation into the money laundering issues in British Columbia in 2019. He told us he hoped the coverage would convince the government of British Columbia to launch a commission of inquiry, which it did a few months after the broadcast of W5.
Yet when Alderson finally testified in September, he was a reluctant witness. He had already paid a heavy price for trying to shame politicians and he didn’t want to take any more.
Unable to find solid work in Canada after resigning from the BCLC, Alderson moved to Australia with his family, where severe COVID lockdowns restricted his ability to seek employment. Eventually, he agreed to testify after other witnesses questioned his credibility about the conversations he claimed to have had with them.
He had provided the Commission with documents and offered to be interviewed before leaving Canada, but Commission Counsel Patrick McGowan spent much of his interview with Alderson asking him questions on the matter. whether he was trying to dodge the word rather than the substance of what he said. he saw it pass.
Many difficult exchanges followed lawyers representing others, culminating in a bizarre cross-examination by a lawyer representing a suspected loan shark accusing Alderson of breaking the law by speaking to reporters.
It will be up to Commissioner Cullen to decide whether the laws have been broken by alerting reporters to the extent of money laundering. There is no protection for whistleblowers in British Columbia who disclose material to the media.
But aside from the huge levels of questionable gambling transactions that passed through the only underground bank the RCMP raided in Richmond (estimated at over $ 1 billion a year by police forces), the Commission would risk shooting the messenger of crime, not the criminals themselves.
The mayor of neighboring Port Coquitlam, Brad West, believes there is a lot at stake in what Commissioner Cullen is telling the BC government:
“If there is no criminal liability that arises,” he told W5 in an interview, “the message will be sent that British Columbia continues to be a place where you can come from the world. whole and engage in illegal activities and not face all the consequences.
‘The Laundromat: Inquiry’ will air on CTV at 7 p.m. Saturday. It will also be available at Official W5 channel on YouTube