he Canadian province of Quebec will launch an external and independent audit to gather information about possible money laundering and criminal activities in publicly-owned casinos, the province’s finance minister said on Monday.
An external auditor will be appointed to lead the investigation of money laundering and criminal activities, as well as loyalty programs, at four state-owned casinos in the province. Finance Minister Eric Girard did not name specific casinos in his statement.
The audit follows local news reports that the state-owned Casino de Montreal “rolled out the red carpet” for organized crime leaders before the pandemic, offering them free hotel rooms, meals and show tickets. News channel TVA's investigative unit found Mafia leaders had received access to luxury perks through the Montreal Casino.
Loto-Quebec, a provincial Crown corporation that operates the casinos, including Casino de Montreal, said in a statement last week that it actively works to fight money laundering and has procedures in place to ensure it complies with all regulatory requirements. The operator responded to the audit Monday afternoon saying it will fully collaborate, adding that it has always been committed to finding the best ways to counter methods used by organized crime.
"In the interest of continuous improvement, Loto-Québec keeps abreast of best practices to counter the methods used in organized crime, which are constantly evolving. The Corporation will ensure the cooperation of all staff and will apply any recommendations resulting from the audit," said Lynne Roiter, president and CEO of Loto-Quebec, as reported by CTV News Montreal.
Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade told The Canadian Press she wants to see an independent public inquiry, and said it would not have to stretch over a few years. Instead, she said, several commissions with a well-targeted mandate and on “very specific subjects” would take six months, she said.