Comment on Vancouver’s Oak Street Shooting: gangs and money-laundering

The shooting of 10 gang-related people on Vancouver’s westside over the weekend is an astonishing punctuation mark in our history. We all know this horrific escalation of violence is out of any control by police and civil authorities, and no end is in sight.

Most of us associate gangs with violence and street warfare, but these incidents are only ancillary to the massive industry behind them. Money is the lifeblood that feeds it. Controlling the gangs is as simple, and as overwhelmingly difficult, as this: STOP THE MONEY.

It’s impossible to stop the drug business, the prostitution, human trafficking, gun and weapons trade, loan sharking and other commerce that preys on human misery and weakness.

Yet consider this: almost ALL gang-related transactions are cash, and that cash, hundreds and hundreds of millions of it, must be laundered into “legal” currency through conventional business outlets.

FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Report Analysis Centre of Canada) is the federal government agency tasked with discovering, scrutinizing, disrupting, and shutting down money-laundering activities. It has identified casinos as a high priority focus for money laundering by organized crime and terrorists–which BC has had more than its fair share of: see  FINTRAC – Money Laundering Typologies and Trends in Canadian Casinos – Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.

FINTRAC tracking indicates that money laundering in casino venues has increased significantly from 2007-08.

For all their talk about integrity and law and order, the BC Lottery Corporation and the BC government have almost completely abandoned the nexus between legal gambling operations and money-laundering by organized crime.

In late 2008 the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team issued a damning report, which said “Canadian casinos are extremely vulnerable to money laundering because they deal in cash and handle tens of millions of dollars every day… members of organized crime also used casinos for criminal purposes and… some of these criminal elements have successfully infiltrated the industry. “ See RCMP on money-laundering.

The report goes on to say that in recent years FINTRAC has alerted the RCMP to suspicious transactions involving casinos, with amounts across Canada totalling over $40 million, but that, “because of other priorities and lack of resources, at this time, nothing is being done to investigate these situations.”

Most of us, faced with such an incendiary report, would immediately beef up policing of casinos, yes?

Obviously we don’t understand how protecting the public interest actually works in the greatest place on earth.

Because the real answer was to call an urgent in-camera meeting of the IIGET Consultative Board with representatives of the Gaming Branch, to review the report. This happened on January 26, 2009, and concluded with a discussion of the “uncertainty of future funding for IIGET.”

Within three weeks, internal emails reveal, the die was cast. IIGET would be disbanded. See the emails concerning the closure of the integrated illegal gaming enforcement team. To this day BC has no dedicated specialized policing of casinos and the money-laundering and loan-sharking that go on inside their premises on a daily basis: The announcement was made April 1, 2009, which probably tickled the funny-bones over at BC Gaming.

And what has been the result?

The BC Lottery Corporation seems to have turned a blind eye to the whole business. In July of this year, FINTRAC, in an unprecedented move, fined the BC Lottery Corporation $670,000 for inadequate reporting of suspicious transactions–the first fine of a gaming regulatory body in Canada. BC Lottery Corporation president Michael Graydon brushed off the offenses as clerical errors.

Mr. Graydon, Solicitor General Rich Coleman: We are seeing the results of your negligence on our city streets. Our children are waking in their beds to the sound of gunfire outside their windows.

Faced with the opportunity to help stop this hellish business, you are doing nothing. Worse than nothing.

Give us real policing in our casinos, and stop pretending that everything that goes on inside them is just fun and games.

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