Two significant whistleblowers against money laundering in B.C. casinos will not having special standing status during the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, Commissioner Austin Cullen ruled Friday.
They may, nevertheless, still play key roles in providing information and context of the issue as witnesses.
Fred Pinnock, the RCMP Unit Commander of the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET) for British Columbia from September 2005 until his retirement in 2008, was denied standing status.
A week prior to Friday’s ruling, whistleblower Ross Alderson, former director of anti-money laundering and investigations at BC Lottery Corp. (BCLC), said he would no longer pursue his standing status application, but rather provide testimony whenever called upon.
Alderson claims, in media reports, that officials ignored his warnings and reports. Pinnock has stated the public has been misled as to the nature and degree of money laundering and other criminal activity taking place in casinos.
Former BC Liberal cabinet minister (and current MLA) Rich Coleman shut down Pinnock’s IIGET unit in 2009.
Standing status 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.
Pinnock told Cullen he had opinions on political figures, but his assertions are undocumented, Cullen said in his ruling.
Another key factor in obtaining standing order is whether one’s reputation or individual rights are at risk. Cullen found Pinnock’s were not, despite Pinnock’s assertion that, according to the ruling, “his efforts to expand IIGET’s mandate to address illegal activity occurring within legal gambling environments damaged his working relationships with the GPEB [Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch] and the RCMP and ultimately resulted in his early retirement.”
While Pinnock was denied, Jim Lightbody, on-leave president and CEO of the BCLC, has been granted such status. Lightbody had claimed his personal interests are at stake and he may be affected by the commission’s findings as laid out in the terms of reference. Those terms state findings of fact include “the acts or omissions of regulatory authorities and individuals with powers, duties or functions” and “whether those acts or omission have amounted to corruption.”
“He [Lightbody] pointed out that counsel for BCLC owes an undivided duty of loyalty to BCLC,” wrote Cullen. “If a conflict arose between Mr. Lightbody’s personal or reputational interests and BCLC’s corporate interests, he submits that his interests would not be adequately safeguarded would not be adequately safeguarded were his personal participation to be limited to that of a witness.”
Cullen concluded “that while there is considerable common ground between Mr. Lightbody and BCLC, there is also a realistic prospect that advancing his individual interests or protecting his individual rights would place him in a position that is either incompatible with, or on a different trajectory from, BCLC.”
Ultimately, Cullen ruled, Lightbody would be able to “provide evidence of interest to the Commission.”
Lightbody had also expressed concern about negative media attention.
Brad Desmarais, BCLC’s vice-president of compliance and security and former vice-president of casino and community gaming, is also seeking standing status. Lawyer David Butcher said the commission’s terms of reference are making people “concerned whether or not they are at jeopardy.”
Butcher asked Cullen for a one-month adjournment to provide documents that are subject to legal restrictions but which will provide reason to grant Desmarais standing status.
Standing status is already 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
•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
•The Coalition. A coalition comprising of Transparency International Canada, Canadians for Tax Fairness and Publish what you Pay Canada.