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Mysterious whistleblower to return to money laundering inquiry

Former BCLC investigator and AML boss Ross Alderson is now set to testify
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, who alarmed the public with his disappearance from the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in B.C., has now re-appeared to testify.

Ross Alderson, a former director of anti-money laundering (AML) investigations at the B.C. Lottery Corporation (BCLC), was granted participant status by Commissioner Austin Cullen Friday and is now set to testify at a date to be determined — although he appears to be keeping a tight lid on his privacy.

Alderson reached out to the commission in April after being unresponsive to counsel for more than a year. He had initially sought participant status in 2019, but dropped his application unexpectedly. Attempts by the commission to contact him throughout 2020 failed.

It is now known, via Cullen’s ruling Friday, that Alderson returned to his native country of Australia. But he is keeping a low profile, communicating with the commission only by courier via a hotel beach resort. On May 24, Alderson submitted an affidavit.

Cullen granted Alderson participant status as well, allowing him to submit closing remarks — although they must be done “expediently” so Cullen can meet his December 15 final report deadline. Cullen was expected to receive closing submissions in July but will now expect them in September.

Alderson’s name has been raised during testimony several times. As such, Cullen felt it necessary to give Alderson a second chance, noting Alderson’s rights and interests may be adversely impacted. For instance, noted Cullen, Alderson is accused of leaking information to media and undermining AML efforts at BCLC. Former colleagues have also questioned Alderson’s mental health, noted Cullen, who is also expecting to hear from Robert Boyle, the Ernst & Young author of two expert reports to BCLC and provided to the commission near the end of the evidence hearings.

Some evidence shows Alderson was the one at BCLC who reached out to an RCMP unit specializing in transnational organized crime, in 2015 — a time when bags of suspected drug cash (duffle bags stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of $20 bills) were routinely deposited in Metro Vancouver casinos with impunity.

Police investigators alleged high-stakes gamblers sought loans originating from Chinese Triads, who worked in concert with Mexican cartels and local gangs. 

Alderson alleged the casinos didn’t properly enforce AML rules for the gamblers.

“I agree with Mr. Alderson that his unique perspective and experiences during his employment with BCLC from 2008 to 2017 are worthy of further exploration in evidence,” ruled Cullen.

“In these circumstances, given the timing of Mr. Alderson reconnecting with the Commission and his seeking and obtaining participant status, his involvement will need to unfold with considerable efficiency in order to avoid creating any undue delay in the Commission process,” stated Cullen.

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 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.”

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.