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Money laundering whistleblower vanishes without a trace

Ross Alderson, a former director of anti-money laundering (AML) investigations at the B.C. Lottery Corporation, took concerns to media in 2017; now he’s a no-show at the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C.
Ross Alderson-CTV
Ross Alderson, former director of anti-money laundering (AML) investigations at the B.C. Lottery Corporation, spoke to CTV W5 in February 2019.

A key whistleblower to alleged money laundering in B.C. casinos has seemingly vanished without a trace.

Ross Alderson, a former director of anti-money laundering (AML) investigations at the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC), has not responded to a March 2020 summons to attend the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C.

The commission has since posted online a short report on efforts to contact Alderson since last March.

“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 unclear where Alderson — who speaks with an Australian accent — may be and whether he is safe and well. He was supposed 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.

Alderson was featured as a whistleblower on CTV’s investigation program W5 in February 2019. 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.”

Alderson had also applied for standing status at the inquiry in September 2019, although he withdrew his application before Commissioner Austin Cullen made a ruling.

Alderson had been a BCLC casino investigator from 2008 to 2015 and then became the manager of the Crown corporation’s AML 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. Among the concerns was casinos violating federal anti-money laundering regulations. 

Alderson moved to the helm of AML for BCLC when a significant RCMP investigation into Chinese organized crime using the casinos as a means to launder local drug cash, via Chinese gamblers, was launched in 2015.

Alderson was particularly critical of casinos, suspecting staff members were in cahoots with the suspicious gamblers. He continued to identify “multiple significant compliance concerns” by Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and its flagship Richmond casino River Rock Casino and Resort in October 2015, when casino directors were acutely aware of money laundering concerns. 

By this time, the inquiry had heard from gambling officials, of how significant amounts of suspicious cash were entering casinos daily — and BCLC facilitated it all by acquiescing to casino demands to increase bet limits to as much as $100,000 per hand. Meanwhile, gamblers were routinely bringing in shopping bags of $20 bills bundled in elastics, at all hours of the day.

Alderson became BCLC’s key person working with a new RCMP gambling unit (JIGIT) in 2016. 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.

But prior to resigning, Alderson provided some investigation documents to media — indicating dissatisfaction with how the government handled the matter.

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 his credibility and trust with fellow officials was “negatively impacted” by his whistleblowing. He cited challenges 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. Alderson apologized to his team in a subsequent December 2017 letter.

Fellow investigator Darryl Tottenham told the commission last November he sensed Alderson was suffering from poor mental health.

Alderson told Tottenham at a “goodbye lunch” in January 2018 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, Tottenham testified.

Tottenham told of how Alderson was particularly critical of actions by his BCLC superiors Robert Kroeker, Brad Desmarais and Jim Lightbody following his resignation. However Tottenham said he didn’t hear such concerns while Alderson was still working.

As Tottenham described, Alderson was managing AML initiatives to curb suspected money laundering.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the inquiry, described Alderson’s actions as a “huge security breach.”

Tottenham said he was not aware of any police investigation into Alderson’s potential privacy law violations.

The inquiry seeks to answer questions surrounding corruption in B.C. casinos and examine other provincially-regulated industries susceptible to money laundering, including real estate and luxury goods. The inquiry’s mandate is not federal and does not examine money laundering in federally-regulated financial institutions.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca