Anti-gang cops arrest nine following year-long probe into illegal gambling

Nine people have been arrested by B.C.’s anti-gang task force after a year-long investigation involving illegal gambling houses and millions of dollars in laundered money in Metro Vancouver.

In May 2016, an integrated unit within the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit started a probe into a criminal organization allegedly operating illegal gambling houses, loan sharking, carrying out money laundering for drug traffickers, kidnappings, extortions and other violent acts.

“During the investigation, it was apparent there were multiple roles filled by different people (who) enabled or facilitated the organization in laundering large amounts of money through casinos,” said CFSEU Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett at a news conference Tuesday at RCMP “E” Division headquarters in Surrey.

Hackett pegged the amount of money laundered into the “millions.” He declined to name any of the casinos, but said they are all in the Lower Mainland.

The investigation by the joint illegal gambling investigation team also uncovered that the Lower Mainland-based organized crime group had operations that extended to China and other countries, he said.

A search of six homes led to the seizure of cash, drug paraphernalia, cellphones, computers, and a number of luxury vehicles, including one that had a sophisticated hidden compartment. Some of the items seized — stacks of bills in clear plastic bags, scales and bill-counters — were on display at the news conference.

The suspects have not been charged but face possible charges of money laundering, drug trafficking and proceeds of crime. They are not in custody. None of them were employed by the casinos.

Peter Goudron, executive director of the B.C. Gaming Industry Association, said it is concerned by the CFSEU’s assertion that large amounts of money were laundered through casinos.

“Given the robust (anti-money laundering) procedures in place at B.C. casinos we are unaware how this could have taken place and expect to learn more about their allegations in the near future,” he said in a statement.

The association said B.C. casinos are required to report any cash buy-in over $10,000 and all suspicious transactions to the B.C. Lottery Corporation and Fintrac, Canada’s money-laundering watchdog.

The task force also executed a raid Monday night at an illegal gambling house in Richmond believed to be associated with the group, said Hackett. About three or four such venues were uncovered during the investigation. Some of them were located in homes.

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Photo: Jason Payne PNG