Casino ups ante in fight over info

Court ac­tion seeks to block re­lease of gov­ern­ment pa­pers to Post­media

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - SAM COOPER

The cor­po­ra­tion that op­er­ates River Rock Casino in Rich­mond has filed a last-minute court ac­tion seek­ing to block the re­lease to Post­media News of gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments con­cern­ing al­le­ga­tions of money laun­der­ing in B.C. casi­nos.

The doc­u­ments were sched­uled to be dis­closed to Post­media on Tues­day un­der B.C.’s free­dom of in­for­ma­tion laws. How­ever, a pe­ti­tion filed by Great Cana­dian Gam­ing Corp. on Nov. 9 in B.C. Supreme Court asks a judge to bar any fur­ther doc­u­ment dis­clo­sures re­lated to Post­media’s free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest un­til a com­plaint filed by Great Cana­dian to B.C.’s Of­fice of In­for­ma­tion and Pri­vacy is in­ves­ti­gated.

Great Cana­dian claims that it was not given proper no­tice by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment or the chance to ar­gue against the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion that it claims is con­fi­den­tial to its busi­ness op­er­a­tions. The pe­ti­tion also asks a judge to re­v­erse a pre­vi­ous de­ci­sion by the pri­vacy com­mis­sioner, in which the com­mis­sioner al­legedly re­fused to order B.C.’s Min­istry of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral to halt sched­uled doc­u­ment re­leases to Post­media.

Great Cana­dian’s pe­ti­tion was sched­uled to be heard in court on Tues­day. The pe­ti­tion re­lates to in­for­ma­tion re­quests made by Post­media in May 2017 for B.C. Gam­ing Pol­icy En­force­ment Branch and third-party doc­u­ments re­gard­ing gam­bling, crime and money laun­der­ing con­cerns in B.C.

Post­media has al­ready pub­lished a num­ber of re­ports based on the first phase of doc­u­ments re­leased by the gam­ing en­force­ment branch in early Oc­to­ber.

Great Cana­dian’s pe­ti­tion claims those doc­u­ments al­ready re­leased to Post­media — and in­for­ma­tion con­tained in an au­dit com­pleted by MNP and re­leased by At­tor­ney Gen­eral David Eby in Septem­ber — con­tain de­tails of the com­pany’s con­fi­den­tial busi­ness op­er­a­tions.

“GCGC will suf­fer ir­repara­ble harm if the phase two dis­clo­sure is re­leased with­out (the com­pany) be­ing pro­vided with an op­por­tu­nity to make the rep­re­sen­ta­tion it is statu­to­rily en­ti­tled to make,” the pe­ti­tion states. “Once phase two dis­clo­sure is re­leased to the pub­lic, the dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion harm­ful to GCGC’s busi­ness in­ter­ests can­not be un­done.”

“Our in­ter­est in fil­ing the suit is sim­ply in en­sur­ing that the FOI leg­is­la­tion is ap­pro­pri­ately fol­lowed be­fore in­for­ma­tion is re­leased pub­licly ... the ini­tial FOI pack­age con­tained con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing GCGC and its busi­ness op­er­a­tions,” Great Cana­dian spokes­woman Sonja Mandic said in an email Tues­day.

A spokesper­son for the Min­istry of At­tor­ney Gen­eral stated: “Gov­ern­ment is work­ing with our le­gal coun­sel to re­view the suit filed by Great Cana­dian Gam­ing Cor­po­ra­tion . ... In terms of the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion, the gov­ern­ment will de­fend and act on the pub­lic’s right to as full in­for­ma­tion as is legally pos­si­ble on the al­leged money laun­der­ing con­nected to B.C.’s gam­ing in­dus­try.”

Eby has said he launched an in­de­pen­dent re­view of money laun­der­ing con­cerns in B.C. casi­nos af­ter read­ing in­for­ma­tion in MNP’s re­port, which al­leged River Rock Casino ac­cepted $13.5 mil­lion in $20 bills in July 2015 that po­lice be­lieve could be pro­ceeds of crime. The cash was mostly used by VIP gam­blers from China, the MNP re­port said. A re­view of B.C. casi­nos con­tin­ues, a min­istry spokesper­son said Tues­day.

Great Cana­dian’s pe­ti­tion says its lawyers wrote to the min­istry Oct. 23 ask­ing no fur­ther doc­u­ments be dis­closed un­der Post­media’s free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest un­til the com­pany could re­view the doc­u­ments and ar­gue its opin­ion.

On Oct. 7, Post­media re­ported doc­u­ments re­leased un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­vealed in 2016 then-fi­nance min­is­ter Mike de Jong was warned River Rock Casino was al­legedly un­der-re­port­ing sus­pi­cious and large cash trans­ac­tions “con­trary to fed­eral reg­u­la­tions and BCLC pol­icy.”

The doc­u­ments also showed B.C.’s gov­ern­ment was warned in April by the gam­ing en­force­ment branch that the pres­ence of or­ga­nized crim­i­nals in B.C. casi­nos is “a vi­able threat to pub­lic safety.”

And on Oct. 16, Post­media re­ported River Rock Casino know­ingly ac­cepted mil­lions in sus­pi­cious cash that was pro­vided to VIP gam­blers by lenders who were banned from B.C. casi­nos, ac­cord­ing to al­le­ga­tions in an in­ter­nal au­dit.

The au­dit and other gam­ing en­force­ment branch doc­u­ments, re­leased to Post­media through free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests, also said that a re­view of play at high-limit ta­bles at River Rock con­cluded a money-laun­der­ing process known as “re­fin­ing” — which may al­low gam­blers to buy chips with wads of street-used $20 bills and cash out with neat bun­dles of $100 bills suit­able for bank­ing — was be­lieved to be oc­cur­ring.

Once ... re­leased to the pub­lic, the dis­clo­sure of in­for­ma­tion harm­ful to GCGC’s busi­ness in­ter­ests can­not be un­done.

On Oct. 20, Post­media re­ported ex­ec­u­tives with Great Cana­dian Gam­ing Corp. met B.C. Lot­tery Corp. man­agers in 2014 to dis­cuss safety con­cerns pre­sented by a high-stakes gam­bler who bought chips at River Rock af­ter re­ceiv­ing a sus­pi­cious de­liv­ery of $645,000 in small bills, ac­cord­ing to doc­u­ments.

There is no in­di­ca­tion of how long the pri­vacy com­mis­sioner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Great Cana­dian’s com­plaint could take to com­plete.

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