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BCLC Reveals Details of Record-Setting 2010 Fine

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The British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) has finally released documents pertaining to its 2010 fine of over $516,800, handed down by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). This is the largest-ever levy imposed on a provincial gaming body by the anti-money laundering watchdog or any other body whatsoever.

No Details During Active Legal Battle

The BCLC’s transgression was said to involve undisclosed breaches of Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. Initially, as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) explained in early July 2020, the western Canadian gaming body fought the penalty decision, The BCLC also argued that, while its legal battle was still active, it should not be compelled to release associated documentation.

Michael Graydon, who was the Corporation’s Chief Executive Officer and President at the time, is also said to have claimed that if any disclosures were made, money launderers would be tipped off about his organisation’s alleged weaknesses which would make them vulnerable to criminal attacks. In short, said Graydon, the publication of details surrounding the case would detract from the BCLB’s efforts to comply with FINTRAC and would “encourage inappropriate behaviour”.

CBC’s Continued Pursuit of the Truth

The BCLC was successful in arguing the point about disclosure back in 2010, but FINTRAC ultimately dropped the charges against the Corporation in 2017 after a very complicated legal battle. This prompted the CBC to submit a freedom of information request, in which they asked for access to the case-related documents.

The request was filed with both the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General and the Lottery Corporation. According to the CBC, the Ministry of the Attorney General did release redacted portions of some requested information. However, this shed very little light on why the British Columbia Lottery Corporation was fined in the first place.

Unsatisfied with the data provided, the CBC persisted in its efforts to get more details. Eventually, earlier in 2020, the broadcaster was able to obtain a pledge from David Eby who is the current Attorney General for British Columbia. In February, Eby is said to have proclaimed that the documents’ release was long overdue and that the British Columbian public deserved to see them.

Details of the BCLC’s Transgressions

In the final report given after the documentation had been properly viewed, the CBC explains that FINTRAC identified seven major deficiencies pertaining to the BCLC’s regulation of land-based gambling in the western Canadian province, between 2009 and 2010. These transgressions, the broadcaster said, are believed to have allowed as much as $739 million to be laundered through casinos.

The BCLC was found to frequently have asked venues to disregard verification checks on the source of monies used by high-risk clients. Gamblers in British Columbia, the CBC noted after reviewing the information, were often allowed to deposit suitcases or bags filled with $20 bills after opaquely declaring their professions as simply business owners or self-employed.

Hope for Better Practices in the Future

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation does report that significant progress has been made in the BCLC’s anti money-laundering efforts. This is according to FINTRAC’s last examination of the regulator, which was conducted in 2018. However, President of the British Columbia Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, Mike Larsen, declared that the body should have been transparent about its shortcomings when the issue first arose a decade ago.

By not doing so, said Larsen, the Lottery Corporation looked unnecessarily, and perhaps even conspiratorially, secretive. This could arouse great suspicion and mistrust, as well as the spending of considerable time and money on resolving the issue. These resources could be better directed elsewhere, and it is hoped that the BCLC will be more open about its activities from now on.

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