Fired casino exec fears being money laundering fall guy - BC News
Sunday 26th January 2020
Photo: River Rock Casino
A former manager of VIP gaming at River Rock Casino and Resort in Richmond believes he's being set up as the "fall person" - claiming his recent termination was a means to muzzle him ahead of a public inquiry into money laundering and deflect responsibility for any such allegations from his superiors.
Walter Soo claims in a lawsuit filed last month in BC Supreme Court that he was fired August 29, 2019, as Great Canadian Gaming Corp.'s executive vice-president of player and gaming development and was asked to sign a settlement agreement that "would force him to refrain from co-operating or participating in proceedings" involving Great Canadian.
Despite the agreement being a condition of a severance package that included two years' salary ($443,000), plus stock options, Soo claims he did not sign the agreement as it could compromise his reputation following reports by Global News naming him as a company executive who would have been responsible for preventing alleged widespread money laundering in the casino - something he denies.
"The actions of Great Canadian were devised with the ulterior motive of preventing Mr. Soo from clarifying his employment obligations and addressing and clearing his name of the defamatory statements made against him," Soo claims.
"They were designed to protect Great Canadian, its Board and its senior executives," including the two most senior who he reported to: President and CEO Rod Baker and President of Strategic Growth and Chief Compliance Officer Terrance Doyle - as well as board members, including Canadian Senator Larry Campbell, who has chaired the compliance and security committee since June 2015.
In July 2015, large cash transactions had become commonplace in B.C. casinos; some people were bringing in suitcases and hockey bags full of $20 bills, according to Attorney General David Eby, who launched the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia.
Eby commissioned a March 2018 report called Dirty Money by retired assistant RCMP commissioner Peter German, who cites links between the drug trade, organized crime groups from China and money laundering through B.C. casinos.
German noted how investigators found "approximately $13.5 million in $20 bills was accepted during July 2015 alone" at River Rock. German reported that Doyle, as Great Canadian's compliance officer in 2016, "with no clear direction from BCLC [the BC Lottery Corp.] or [Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch]," called on casino employees to no longer accept large un-sourced cash deposits.
Signing the agreement, Soo claims, "could enable Great Canadian Executives responsible for overseeing, monitoring and preventing the alleged activities to avoid responsibility for their own personal actions and responsibilities...."
"Mr. Soo is not prepared to be the 'fall person' for Great Canadian, Mr. Doyle, Mr. Baker, the Board or [BCLC]," states the claim prepared by lawyer Dwight C. Harbottle of Harbottle and Co.
Soo is suing for loss of salary and asking for an order declaring the alleged employment contract is invalid. He was earning a $221,500 base salary with a $66,450 bonus at the time of his firing.