The chief of casino gaming at the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) was denied special standing status Monday at the ongoing public inquiry into money laundering in the province, which remains in a nascent stage.
Brad Desmarais, BCLC vice-president of casino and community gaming and the interim vice-president of legal compliance and security, had sought standing status at the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia because he “played a significant role in the regulation of gaming and casinos for several years” at BCLC, according to commissioner Austin Cullen.
“Mr. Desmarais submits that he has been responsible for many major money laundering and organized crime investigations,” stated Cullen in his reasons for denial of standing status, which grants special or highly knowledgeable individuals or groups procedural rights during the two-year inquiry.
Cullen has yet to determine those rights, but they may include representation by counsel, proposing witnesses, applying to participate in evidentiary hearings, reviewing documents and making submissions.
Another key factor in obtaining standing status is whether one’s reputation or individual rights are at risk.
One of Demarais’ concerns was that the inquiry’s mandate states the commission “could determine whether the acts or omissions of regulatory authorities or individuals have amounted to corruption.” As such, Desmarais could be held personally liable for his conduct.
Desmarais’ lawyer David Butcher said last October, at a related hearing, that the commission’s terms of reference are making people “concerned whether or not they are at jeopardy.”
However, Cullen ruled that Desmarais does not hold a distinct position or interest from BCLC nor is there any apparent threat to Desmarais in terms of personal liability or reputation.
“Given that much of his participation, contribution, expertise, experience and perspective arise from his position at BCLC, it was not apparent that his interests were sufficiently distinct from those of BCLC to justify a separate grant of standing. His involvement and evidence could be presented effectively as part of that organization’s participation in the Commission, or indeed, independent of any participant status, as a witness with relevant expertise,” ruled Cullen.
Desmarais, formerly of the Vancouver Police Department, was not “able to identify any area or issue on which he expects his position to be at all different from that of the BCLC, which has already been granted standing at the Inquiry.”
Cullen did previously grant standing status to on-leave BCLC CEO Jim Lightbody.
“Mr. Lightbody asserted that he had a perspective or information to offer that is not only different from BCLC, but that BCLC is not privy to,” stated Cullen in Desmarais’ ruling.
Former BCLC head of security Robert Kroeker was also given standing status by Cullen. Kroeker and Lightbody cited media reports from theBreaker.news naming them as key players in anti-money laundering and gambling initiatives at BCLC, such as a junket all three executives took together to Macau in summer 2017 for an Asian gambling convention.
The inquiry has a broad mandate but was largely fuelled by concerns dirty money from China poured into Vancouver real estate – sometimes through local casinos licensed by BCLC – causing immense price gains and record levels of sales (flipping) in only a short period of time.
Standing status has been granted to:
•British Columbia Ministry of Finance;
•Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch of the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General;
•Government of Canada (RCMP);
•Society of Notaries Public of BC;
•Law Society of British Columbia;
•British Columbia Lottery Corporation;
•Great Canadian Gaming Corporation;
-Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited;
•Canadian Gaming Association;
•British Columbia Government and Service Employees’ Union;
•Robert Kroeker and Jim Lightbody;
•BMW Canada Inc. and BMW Financial Services, a division of BMW Canada Inc. -British Columbia Civil Liberties Association;
•Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia;
•Criminal Defence Advocacy Society; and
•The Coalition: a coalition comprising of Transparency International Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness and Publish what you Pay Canada.