Former BC Liberal Solicitor General Rich Coleman says he “tried my best” to deal with money laundering at casinos while in government.
Coleman told CKNW’s Lynda Steele Show that it is “load of garbage” to suggest his government knew money laundering was going on and didn’t stop it because the government was addicted to the gaming revenues.
LISTEN: Rich Coleman defends money laundering enforcement record
When Coleman was serving as solicitor general, the government decided to scrap the Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team (IIGET) even though there were reports that showed substantial money laundering in B.C. casinos.
“I think we tried. I think the challenge was IIGET didn’t work. I thought IIGET would work better than it did. And I think that was our biggest disappointment,” said Coleman.
“We did everything we could. I had the confidence to do my job arm’s length from any interference with any investigation from police.”
Coleman has been widely criticized since the B.C. Government released a report from Peter German last week showing there has been widespread money laundering in B.C. casinos. In releasing the report, Attorney General David Eby alleged the former government had “turned a blind eye.”
“The German report paints a troubling picture of government that didn’t respond effectively to pervasive money laundering in B.C. casinos. German found they didn’t effectively detect, prevent or prosecute it — they turned a blind eye to it,” said Eby.
WATCH HERE: Government report blasts money laundering in B.C.
German interviewed Coleman for the report and concluded that getting rid of IIGET in 2009 had a significant impact.
“The loss of IIGET meant that the future rise of loan sharking, money laundering and organized crime in casinos, let alone illegal gaming outside of casinos, remained primarily with (BC Lottery Corp. and Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch) to sort out,” German’s report says.
Coleman said the previous government got rid of the team consisting of 12 RCMP members because it had received advice from law enforcement that the unit was not doing what was intended.
“It wasn’t effective. That was the assessment by the senior people, the chiefs of police who were involved on the board to decide if that was an effective unit,” said Coleman.
WATCH: David Eby speaks about money laundering at casinos in BC
“It wasn’t working. They were having trouble staffing it up and building the expertise so the recommendation was to keep the money but move it over to the CFSEU (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit).”
The RCMP has a different interpretation of what happened. Last week the Mounties released a statement claiming it wasn’t up to them to disband the unit.
“At times, government is briefed on sensitive information concerning police investigations that cannot be released. However, it was the decision of government to disband ,” reads the RCMP statement.
To that statement, Coleman said it is possible the “RCMP may not have the letter” and that he “knows” it was the recommendation to move the gaming enforcement teams into the CFSEU.
WATCH HERE: Liberal response to money laundering report
There have also been questions raised about why Coleman did not respond on behalf of the BC Liberals when the report was released last week.
The day of the report Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal responded on behalf of the Opposition and leader Andrew Wilkinson took questions from reporters the next day.
“I wasn’t available that day. I was travelling,” said Coleman. “Quite frankly there have been a number of ministers with responsibilities to it, and that is why it made more sense to have the leader on it rather than a mixed bag of people.”
As for Coleman’s interest in becoming the next mayor of Surrey, he says he has not decided if he is going to run.
“I haven’t made that decision. I know absolutely clearly that I did everything professionally as a minister without interfering in any ongoing police investigation,” said Coleman.
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