An inquiry into money laundering in B.C. would not exist without the “courage” of an ex-RCMP officer who spoke out about organized crime in casinos, his lawyer says.
Paul Jaffe told a hearing Friday that the public perception of the inquiry will be damaged if it doesn’t grant standing to Fred Pinnock, the former head of the illegal gaming enforcement team in B.C.
“Mr. Pinnock … was in a fairly unique position to see what he perceived as the interference with his stated mandate, far beyond simple indifference or neglect, as to the systemic use of gaming venues to facilitate money laundering,” Jaffe told commissioner Austin Cullen.
Cullen called the hearing to consider applications for standing from Pinnock as well as B.C. Lottery Corp. executives James Lightbody and Brad Desmarais.
Jaffe said that Pinnock served the RCMP for 29 years and became the unit commander of the gaming team in 2005. His concerns about money laundering were so meaningful that he took early retirement in 2008 and became a “whistleblower,” the lawyer told the hearing.
He also credited Ross Alderson, a former investigator employed by the lottery corporation, with bringing forward concerns that helped spur the inquiry. Alderson had also requested standing but he has since withdrawn his application in favour of being a witness.
However, Jaffe said it’s essential to the public’s view of the inquiry as operating on a “level playing field” that Pinnock be treated as more than a witness, with the ability to cross-examine and call witnesses of his own.
“If you exclude Mr. Pinnock from having standing here, virtually all the participants are parties that have interests to protect,” he told Cullen.
The inquiry has already approved 17 applications for standing, including from the provincial lottery corporation, B.C. Ministry of Finance, the federal government, Canadian Gaming Association and the Law Society of B.C. Cullen said Friday that the B.C. Real Estate Association has now also been approved.
The hearing did not delve into specific evidence, but Cullen summarized Pinnock’s allegations in a ruling last month ordering the hearing.
Pinnock alleges that during the time he led the gaming team the public was being “misled” about the degree of criminal activity in casinos in B.C.
Between 2006 and 2019, he made a number of public statements that reflected his concerns that casinos were “havens for organized criminal activity,” the ruling says.
“He further emphasized that this criminal activity could not have achieved the levels it had without government and law enforcement agencies engaging in wilful blindness and worse,” it says.
“Mr. Pinnock is concerned that the acts or omissions of individuals he and his colleagues observed allowed criminal organizations to flourish in B.C. and beyond, contributing to the opioid crisis and untold numbers of overdose deaths in recent years.”
The B.C. government called the inquiry in May following three independent reviews, including two by Peter German, an ex-deputy commissioner of the RCMP, who wrote a report about money laundering in B.C. It concluded crime groups were funnelling billions of dollars through real estate, luxury cars and other parts of the economy.
The commission will hold a series of public meetings starting in Vancouver on Wednesday. A final report is due by May 2021.
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press