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First public meeting on money laundering held in Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 24, 2019 at 11:17 pm PDT

The first of multiple public meetings into money laundering in B.C. was held on Oct. 23 at the Fairmont Hotel. (Courtesy Fairmont Hotel Vancouver via Facebook)

Several dozen speakers took to the podium to offer their thoughts into B.C.'s problem with money laundering

It's the first of five public hearings on the issue, and was held in Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Hopefully something changes, said former casino worker Kris Selezinka. He told the head of British Columbia’s money laundering inquiry on Wednesday that he’s “embarrassed and ashamed” suspicious behaviour went unchecked across the province for years.

Selezinka worked at a casino in Nanaimo from 1998 to 2005 Selezinka and says he is relieved concerns over money-laundering in the gaming industry are finally being taken seriously.

“We have brought many concerns to the previous Liberal government and got laughed at about real estate, and how much everything costs,” he said. “We were told we were all hypochondriacs and now it’s all coming out. So we are glad it’s out, and it’s coming along. We want everyone to somewhat get a picture of how this is all happening and hopefully something changes.”

Speaking at the first of a series of public meetings, Selezinka told Commissioner Austin Cullen, Commission Counsel Brock Martland and others gathered in the ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Vancouver that every inch of every casino floor is under video surveillance. He said there is no reason his allegations couldn’t be investigated.

“I just find it appalling that it is even going on, right?” Selezinka said. “I’m applying to a PhD in California. I’m not paying for property here. Two of my best friends who have Master’s degrees left. It’s appalling because people want to leave due to the costs. The government doesn’t do anything. What’s the point of being honest if everyone else gets away?”

Selezinka is one of the first civilians to share concerns with the commissioner at the meetings, five of which are planned before Nov. 14.

Speakers at the meeting were given ten minutes each and had to register in advance. One woman, from Delta, suggested the commission subpoena former BCLC staff who were fired and forced to sign non-disclosure agreements after they reported suspicious case transactions at casinos in 2014.

A lawyer from Surrey told the group lawyers in B.C. are not obligated to tell FINTRAC, Canada’s financial intelligence unit, where a client’s money is coming from but other countries do. He blamed the Law Society of B.C., which he said claimed that disclosure would be a privacy issue.

Cullen and the commission are seeking input on widespread concerns dating back several years about dirty money exchanging hands at Lower Mainland casinos, as well as during the sale of real estate and luxury cars.

Other feedback sessions are planned for Richmond, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George, and the interim findings are due in November of next year.

Martland says the the feedback will be used to make recommendations on possible changes, including making lawyers more transparent about their clients’ financial transactions.

Cullen’s final report has to be delivered by May 2021, just a few months before the next provincial election.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Kris Selezinka did not personally raise concerns about money laundering while he was a casino employee between 1998 – 2005.