Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos is scheduled to testify today at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Commissioner Austin Cullen, back centre, listens to introductions before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Monday, February 24, 2020. A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos is scheduled to testify today at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Inquiry hears gaming minister focused on money, not organized crime at B.C. casinos

2017 arrests tied to organized crime, illegal gaming led to dramatic dips in revenue at casinos

A former RCMP officer testified at an inquiry into money laundering Thursday that a British Columbia cabinet minister told him in 2009 that the gaming minister knew about organized crime at casinos but was more focused on the revenue they generated.

Fred Pinnock, who was in charge of the now-defunct illegal gaming enforcement team, testified that he met with then-solicitor general Kash Heed, who is also a former officer he knew through policing circles for 35 years.

Pinnock said Heed told him that his concerns about illegal activities were legitimate but Rich Coleman, who was the gaming minister, was “all about the money.”

“I believe I said to him I’m convinced that Rich Coleman knows what’s going on inside those casinos,” Pinnock said. “And he confirmed my perceptions.”

Pinnock said Heed asserted Coleman was “largely responsible” for problems at casinos and named three or four senior RCMP officers who he alleged were complicit as “puppets for Coleman.”

He said the meeting with Heed was at a cafe or restaurant in Victoria in November 2009.

“Did you ask him whether, as the sitting solicitor general, he had directed any sort of enforcement response?” asked Patrick McGowan, a lawyer for the inquiry.

“It didn’t come up,” Pinnock replied.

Pinnock said he called Heed in July 2018 and secretly recorded the conversation before meeting with him in September that year, when he again recorded the former politician repeating his previous comments about Coleman.

Before he initially met with Heed, Pinnock said his then-girlfriend, legislature member Naomi Yamamoto, approached the gaming minister about arranging a meeting with him on what Pinnock alleged was “out-of-control organized criminal activity” at casinos.

“She told me that it was in a group setting and she described his reaction as brutal and dismissive and embarrassing,” Pinnock said. “My conclusion from that is that he did not want to be seen to be told.”

Yamamoto, who was minister of state for emergency preparedness before the B.C. Liberals were defeated in 2017, never discussed any caucus or cabinet issues with him, said Pinnock, who is now married to Yamamoto.

The NDP launched the inquiry after reports outlined how illegal cash was helping to fuel the real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors in the province. The province also commissioned three reports that said millions of dollars in dirty money flowed through those businesses.

Pinnock said his team was working in partnership with the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch but that was a “charade” and rising tension had him move his staff to a different area of the same building.

He told the inquiry his superiors’ expectations in working with the branch were to “play nicely, get along, we don’t expect big things from you.”

His attempts to investigate proceeds of crime, money laundering and loan sharking at casinos had him writing two proposals in 2007, the first to expand his team and the second to increase funding, Pinnock said, adding he did so at the direction of a senior officer.

However, he testified he doesn’t believe anything came of what he proposed and that he quit his job in December 2007 after two years of frustration. He retired from the RCMP the following year, and the illegal gaming enforcement team was disbanded in 2009.

Earlier Thursday, the inquiry heard the arrests of several people tied to organized crime and illegal gaming in 2017 led to dramatic reductions in revenue at casinos, but only temporarily.

Daryl Tottenham, manager of anti-money laundering programs for the B.C. Lottery Corp., testified casinos were like ghost towns for two to three weeks as high-end players and others stayed away.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

money laundering

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Phyllis Stenson, a mainstay of the local arts scene and the Harrison Festival of the Arts, passed away earlier this month. Stenson was crucial in setting up the foundation for relationships, funding and more that continue even now to echo well past her retirement in 2013. (Contributed Photo/Harrison Festival Society)
Harrison Festival, Fraser Valley arts icon Phyllis Stenson mourned

Stenson passed away in late November, leaving lasting legacy of passion for the arts behind

Construction is expected to start in March of 2021 on 23 new rental homes funded by the provincial government’s Community Housing Fund. (Metro Creative photo)
Province announces rental home project in Chilliwack paid for by Community Housing Fund

Twenty three homes for Indigenous families are planned in partnership with Tzeachten First Nation

Canadian Red Cross staff engaged in a Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and social distancing training exercise. (Luc Alary / Canadian Red Cross)
Red Cross canvassers following PHO guidelines while going door-to-door

Canvassers using safety protocols including masks and distancing to continue organization’s efforts

Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl, pictured here in 2017, has harsh words about the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement. (Black Press file)
Chilliwack MP Mark Strahl says Liberal government is leaving millions of Canadians behind

Strahl delivered a blistering critique of the federal government’s Fall Economic Statement

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — human the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

Most Read