‘Whistleblower’ not granted standing at B.C. money laundering inquiry
October 28, 2019 By The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A former RCMP officer described by his lawyer as a whistleblower for investigating organized crime in casinos has lost his bid for standing at an inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia.
Commissioner Austin Cullen says in a written ruling that Fred Pinnock argued his observations led him to conclude the public was being misled about the nature and degree of money laundering and other criminal activity allegedly taking place in casinos.
Cullen says Pinnock also asserted at a hearing last week that if he was not granted standing, the inquiry would only hear from those with private interests and that there is a need to “level the playing field.”
But Cullen says inquiries are not courts and are convened only to investigate and report findings.
While the commissioner did not accept Pinnock’s submissions, he granted status at the inquiry to James Lightbody, president of the B.C. Lottery Corp.
In the case of Pinnock, Cullen says there is nothing to suggest his reputational, legal or privacy interests would be implicated in the inquiry as he has suggested, and there’s a chance his recollections, observations and conclusions may be challenged.
Cullen says that until commission lawyers have assessed his assertions by interviewing witnesses and reviewing relevant documents, it’s not possible to gauge to what extent Pinnock’s interests will be put at stake or require protection through getting participant status.
Pinnock’s lawyer, Paul Jaffe, told Cullen at the hearing that the inquiry would not exist without his client, who took early retirement in 2008.
“His is not a situation like those of other individuals or agencies who fall within the compass of the commission’s mandate to investigate the acts or omissions of responsible regulatory agencies and individuals and whether those have contributed to money laundering in the province or amount to corruption,” Cullen says in his ruling.
“The thrust of Mr. Pinnock’s submissions is that he was attempting to overcome the apathy of those charged with the relevant responsibility, not that he was part of it.”
However, Cullen said that as with any potential witnesses, Pinnock could reapply for standing at the inquiry if it becomes apparent that his interests may be affected by the findings.
Cullen gave standing to Lightbody after he contended his position and responsibilities at the lottery corporation could lead to a determination that acts or omissions by individuals or regulatory authorities contributed to money laundering in B.C., and possibly be considered corruption.
Cullen says Lightbody submitted that he can offer his perspective and insight on governmental oversight of the corporation under the former Ministry of Finance and under the current Ministry of Attorney General, and can educate the commission about how casinos are operated in B.C.
The B.C. government announced the public inquiry in May. Cullen is considering multiple issues including those related real estate, gambling and financial institutions.
He is required to deliver an interim report by next November and a final report by May 2021.
On Friday, the province announced new rules to help end hidden ownership of private businesses as a way to stem money laundering and tax evasion.
The Finance Ministry says as of next May, private businesses will need to keep transparency records of beneficial owners, including those who have direct or indirect control of a company or its shares by providing information including full legal name, date of birth, citizenship and last-known address.
“Requiring businesses to maintain transparency registries means that criminals cannot hide what they own and that people are paying their fair share,” Finance Ministry Carole James says in a statement.
The ministry’s compliance and auditing officers, as well as law enforcement officials, will have access to the registry and information may also be shared with the Canada Revenue Agency in an effort to stop tax evasion, the ministry says in a news release.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2019.
News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019
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