Out of focus?

Internal documents show the province's anti-illegal gaming enforcement team was directed to "focus on mid-level targets." But the province's gaming minister refused to comment when asked if that might have been why the team's former commander said it "seemed the way to remain in favour with government" was to maintain "check-the-box-type" illegal gaming enforcement rather than "meaningful targeting that would disrupt significant criminal activity."

According to meeting minutes obtained via a freedom of information request, the RCMP team's five-member consultative board - three of whom were from government - appears to have issued that directive on December 1, 2006.

The province blanked out the notes of a discussion on that date about a "shift" in the team's "mandate and priorities." The reason: because it would be "harmful to intergovernmental relations" or reveal "policy advice or recommendations."

But, during the board's next meeting on July 25, 2007, unit commander Fred Pinnock reported "IIGET received direction at the last Consultative Board meeting to focus on mid-level targets." And, on May 22, 2008, the officer who was then in charge of the team - Wayne Holland - "confirmed the target of IIGET is mid-lower tier" targets.

In an earlier interview with Public Eye, Mr. Pinnock said the RCMP's senior management in British Columbia had demonstrated "willful blindness" when it comes to the connection between organized crime and illegal gaming. And he questioned how "motivated the provincial government was to have high-profile enforcement of illegal gaming in the province."

But Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman said, "I'm not going to comment on that individual's comments with regards to this thing. I think he was very close to it and whatever he was commenting on are his own comments. And I'm just going by what I've been told."

As for why the team was directed to focus on mid-level targets, the minister said high-level targets are handled by the RCMP's integrated gang task force and the combined forces special enforcement unit.

A ministry spokesperson later added, prior to the directive, the enforcement team "had a broad range of potential infractions on which to focus." As a result, in order for the team "to be more effective," the board ordered it to "focus on mid-level targets, such as illegal slot machines in communities."

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