A key whistleblower to suspected money laundering in B.C. casinos has disappeared without a trace.
Ross Alderson, the former director of anti-money laundering (AML) investigations at the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC), has not replied to a summons to attend the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C., which was issued in March 2020.
Since then, the commission has posted a brief update on its efforts to contact Alderson since last March.
The commission has posted that “Mr. Alderson has not responded to any of these attempts. Commission counsel has been unable to confirm that he received these communications, though the email address to which commission counsel sent the communications is one Mr. Alderson had previously used to correspond with the Commission Based on communications with Mr.
Alderson prior to and on March 2, 2020. Commission counsel understands that Mr. Alderson may no longer reside in Canada.”
So, it’s unknown where Alderson — who speaks with an Australian accent — could be and if he is safe and well. He was expected to have attended the inquiry by last fall.
More puzzling is his stated intent and eagerness to testify at the inquiry, before it was launched in September 2019.
In February 2019, Alderson was featured as a whistleblower on CTV’s investigative program W5. And he told The Province in May 2019, “This public inquiry is necessary. People need to go to jail” and “I’m more than happy to testify at a public inquiry.”
In September 2019, Alderson applied for standing status at the inquiry, but he withdrew his application before Commissioner Austin Cullen made a ruling.
From 2008 to 2015, Alderson worked as a BCLC casino investigator before becoming the manager of the Crown corporation’s anti-money laundering unit until his resignation in October 2017.
Prior to taking his management position in 2015, inquiry documents from 2012 show Alderson routinely raising concerns about AML non-compliance at casinos. Casinos violating federal anti-money laundering regulations was one of the concerns.
When a significant RCMP investigation into Chinese organized crime using casinos to launder local drug cash via Chinese gamblers was launched in 2015, Alderson was moved to helm of AML for BCLC.
Alderson was especially critical of casinos, believing that staff were in cahoots with the suspicious gamblers. In October 2015, when casino directors were acutely aware of money laundering concerns, he continued to identify “multiple significant compliance concerns” by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and its flagship Richmond casino River Rock Casino and Resort.
By this time, the inquiry had heard from gambling authorities about large amounts of suspicious cash entering casinos on a regular basis, and BCLC had facilitated it all by agreeing to raise bet limits to as much as $100,000 per hand in response to casino demands. Meanwhile, at all hours of the day, gamblers were bringing in shopping bags of $20 bills bundled in elastics.
In 2016, Alderson became the BCLC’s key person with a new RCMP gambling unit (JIGIT). He helped commence new BCLC AML initiatives, such as sourcing wealth (as opposed to cash) by interviewing high-rolling gamblers who self-identified as housewives or students.
However, before resigning, Alderson released some inquiry documents to the media, showing his dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the situation.
His resignation letter is an inquiry exhibit wherein he states, “The very public disclosure of documents in which I am involved in have made my position untenable.”
Alderson said that his whistleblowing had harmed his credibility and trust with fellow officials was “negatively impacted”.
He cited the difficulties of “combatting the almost vindictive nature and political posturing of certain stakeholders,”
adding, “I feel it has taken its toll on me personally and I have had a number of recent health issues which are also considerations in my decision” to resign. In a December 2017 letter, Alderson apologized to his team.
Darryl Tottenham, a fellow investigator, told the commission last November that he believed Alderson was suffering from mental health.
Tottenham testified that Alderson told him at a January 2018 “goodbye lunch” that he had copied documents from his office to an external hard drive to take home and shared some of that information with Global News reporter Sam Cooper.
Following his resignation, Alderson was particularly critical of actions by his BCLC superiors Robert Kroeker, Brad Desmarais, and Jim Lightbody, according to Tottenham. Tottenham, however, said that he didn’t hear any such concerns when Alderson was still working.
Alderson was in charge of anti-money laundering initiatives, according to Tottenham.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the inquiry, described Alderson’s actions as a “huge security breach.”
Tottenham claimed that he was unaware of any police investigation into Alderson’s alleged violations of privacy laws.
The inquiry seeks to answer questions surrounding corruption in B.C. casinos as well as other provincially regulated industries that are vulnerable to money laundering, such as real estate and luxury goods. The mandate of the investigation is not federal, and it does not examine at money laundering in federally regulated financial institutions.