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Doug Ford tells auditor general to 'stay in her lane' after casino sting operation

Auditor General of Ontario Bonnie Lysyk answers questions during her Annual Report news conference at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. Ontario's premier says the province's auditor general should "stay in her lane" after she hired undercover operatives to test money laundering protections at casinos. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO — Ontario's premier says the province's auditor general should "stay in her lane" after she hired undercover operatives to test money laundering protections at casinos.

Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said she hired mystery shoppers who were able to obtain casino cheques in a way that confirmed they could launder money.

But she also said shoppers at a casino were caught by security in their attempts to launder their money.

Premier Doug Ford says Lysyk should focus on value-for-money audits and stay away from sting operations.

Lysyk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ford says he welcomes audits that find where his government wastes money.

"The auditor general has to stay in her lane and focus on where there's waste of money," he said during an unrelated news conference on Thursday.

"You can't do a sting operation, you can't all of a sudden deputize yourself and think you're the secret service going around doing sting operations – that failed by the way and they were caught"

In the auditor general's annual report, Lysyk said her office hired mystery shoppers from a consultant agency to test money laundering protections at four casinos. 

"The purpose of the mystery shopper assignment was to test whether the casinos verified the mystery shoppers' play and casino wins before issuing cheques of $3,000 or more," Lysyk wrote in her report.

Lysyk said at two casinos the undercover operatives walked in with cash ranging from $5,000 to $11,000.

With limited play and no proof of winnings, Lysyk said the shoppers were then able to cash out with casino cheques of $4,900 and $10,600. 

"These funds could be considered 'laundered' because the cheque could be represented as casino winnings as the source of funds for deposit at a bank," Lysyk wrote.

The auditor general admitted on Wednesday at a news conference that the Ontario Provincial Police were not pleased with the sting and asked her to stop because it took up their resources to investigate it.

But Lysyk defended the operation. 

"We do believe it was a worthwhile exercise to revisit the internal controls that are communicated to the casino operators, who are big casino operators in Ontario, of how to ensure that they restrict as much as they can money laundering from happening in the casinos in Ontario," she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2022.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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