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As RCMP investigated casino money laundering, police distrust of B.C. government grew

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Senior police officers were concerned B.C. government officials might have leaked information that “compromised” October, 2015 RCMP raids targeting sophisticated alleged underground casinos in Richmond, B.C., according to records from a B.C. Lottery Corp. whistle-blower.

Global News

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The records obtained by Global News and source interviews suggest that as RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) unit ramped up casino money laundering and underground banking investigations in 2015, senior police and B.C. Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch (GPEB) investigators increasingly viewed B.C. Lottery Corp. (BCLC) — and possibly others in B.C.’s government — with distrust.


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Notes taken by Ross Alderson, BCLC’s former head of anti-money laundering, say that on Oct. 19, 2015 he and senior Vancouver Police anti-gang officer Mike Serr discussed co-ordinated RCMP raids that took place on Oct. 15, 2015 as part of the E-Pirate investigation.

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And there were serious concerns that the suspected illegal casino operators may have gotten advance warning that police were watching.

“Discussed sensitivity in sharing information as Operation was compromised,” Alderson’s notes say. “No. 4 Rd Location had original warrant date (Oct 14) circled on a calendar. Concerns Govt knew more than Senior Police did.”

The E-Pirate raids of 11 locations, including an alleged underground bank in a Richmond office building and luxurious homes that RCMP said hosted illegal casinos, targeted a suspected organized crime loan shark named Paul King Jin and a number of Lottery Corp. high-rollers from China, according to Alderson’s notes.

“11 locations hit – Some residential. No arrests at gaming houses (vacant),” Alderson’s notes say.


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‘BCLC could have stopped this’: Former casino investigators question whether officials unwilling to stop criminal activity

Serr, who is now the chief of Abbotsford Police, said he could not comment for this story.

Alderson’s notes contain a detailed breakdown of the cash, computers, and casino equipment the RCMP say they seized in the E-Pirate raids. About $6 million in cash was seized, and three Baccarat tables, plus 7,000 decks of new cards, according to police.

And there were two illegal casinos, including a mansion on Richmond’s No. 4 Road, with “29 surveillance cameras,” and stacks of chips that could have come from Lottery Corp. casinos, according to allegations in the notes.

But the alleged casinos believed to be run by Chinese Triads appeared to have been quickly abandoned.

Global News asked the RCMP and B.C.’s government whether information was believed to be leaked that compromised E-Pirate raids, and whether there have been investigations into the integrity of information sharing between RCMP and B.C.’s government. By deadline they had not responded to questions.


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Global News has been unable to reach Jin directly or through his lawyer for comment on the allegations. No charges have been filed. Charges were stayed in the E-Pirate investigation, and the B.C. combined forces anti-gang and illegal gaming unit has made a number of arrests in a related investigation. Evidence is now being reviewed by B.C. crown prosecutors, and its not known whether charges will be laid.

Alderson told Serr that the Lottery Corp. was aware of the location of the alleged gaming houses and lists of Chinese VIPs believed to be connected to Jin, his notes say. BCLC also knew high levels of B.C.’s government had been briefed, according to Alderson’s notes.

Alderson’s notes said that he and Serr “agreed that a lot of people had inside knowledge of this operation but reiterated no one (to my knowledge knew of any dates of the operation).”

“I talked about concerns that (BCLC’s) gaming expertise may not be utilized through cutting BCLC out,” Alderson’s notes on the call with Serr, concluded. “Assured him that BCLC did not know dates of operation.”

But sources with knowledge of the perspectives of GPEB and RCMP investigators, said that GPEB investigators had joined a special task-force in the spring of 2015 and accompanied RCMP on the E-Pirate raids in October. And the B.C. gaming regulator investigators later openly complained that the raids had been compromised.

WATCH: B.C. union calls for casino money-laundering public inquiry in B.C.






Growing distrust

According to Alderson’s notes, even before the compromised E-Pirate raids, he had learned by September 2015 that senior police in B.C. and GPEB investigators were losing trust in the Lottery Corp.

But back in February 2015, according to Alderson’s records, the Lottery Corp. and RCMP apparently had agreed to share information for a targeted probe of Jin.

On Feb. 12 at the Lottery Corp.’s head office in Vancouver: “BCLC met with RCMP (federal serious and organized crime) to lodge a complaint (of) cash drop offs at Casinos involving a male by the name of Paul ‘King’ JIN who was believed to be associated to organized crime,” a report filed by Alderson says. Alderson told Serr that the Lottery Corp. was aware of the location of the gaming houses and lists of Chinese VIPs believed to be connected to Jin, his notes say.

On July 20 and 22, Alderson had discussions on the Jin file with senior RCMP officer Calvin Chrustie. A report from Alderson says that Chrustie advised him of investigations into underground banking at an alleged Richmond “cash house” as well as probes of gamblers in Lottery Corp. and illegal casinos.

The RCMP had “uncovered that potentially some of the funds at the cash house were linked to transnational drug trafficking and terrorist financing,” Alderson’s report says.

Alderson’s records say that in the following days, officials including Lottery Corp. executives, and high-level officials in B.C.’s government were briefed on the bombshell information.


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But for some reason, information sharing with the Lottery Corp. had gone sour by September 2015, according to a report filed that month by Alderson.

In his September 2015 report, Alderson wrote he had “received information that senior police had directed their operational staff to deal with GPEB rather than BCLC. Comments were made that there had been unwillingness by BCLC leadership to address, what was in the police’s eyes, clear acceptance of huge volumes of cash which ‘one could reasonably suspect were likely proceeds of crime.’”

In response, BCLC said that it takes money laundering seriously, and that in advance of E-Pirate, from late 2014 through February 2015 BCLC asked the RCMP to investigate suspected loan sharks.

WATCH: Were B.C. casino staff connected to money-laundering suspects?






BCLC stated: “a senior official of the RCMP advised that while BCLC should continue to share information with the RCMP and complete suspicious transaction reports, that official also cautioned BCLC not to take any other action without first discussing it with the RCMP’s Federal Serious and Organized Crime, ‘so as not to impede any ongoing criminal investigation.’”

While Serr is not with the RCMP, court filings show that throughout 2015, RCMP’s FSOC and Vancouver police had overlapping drug-trafficking and casino money laundering probes focused on a transnational Chinese gang connected to a massive alleged underground bank in Richmond with suspected links to Latin American and Middle East drug traffickers.

International anti-money laundering officials estimate the Richmond underground bank laundered over $1.2 billion per year for international narcos.

sam.cooper@globalnews.ca

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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