Ex-CEO of the casino, his wife pleaded guilty to a vaccination program; fine
Millionaire couple make deal with prosecutor and don’t apologize directly to First Nation
The former CEO and Chairman of Great Canadian Gaming Corp. Rod Baker and his wife actress Ekaterina Baker avoided jail after pleading guilty to two counts of violating the Yukon Civil Emergency Measures Act by orchestrate a plan to skip the COVID-19 vaccination queue.
The bakers were both fined $ 500 and will pay a combined penalty of $ 2,300 for failing to self-isolate upon arrival in the Yukon on Jan.21 and for not behaving in a manner consistent with their declaration of arrival.
The wealthy couple flew to Whitehorse on a private jet and told authorities they were there for sightseeing. But they failed to mention that they booked another charter flight on Jan.21 to go to Beaver Creek, an isolated Indigenous community that had set up a special vaccination clinic, which they had pre-checked in, claiming they worked at a local hotel.
The couple got vaccinated and left quickly, only to be met by officials at the Whitehorse airport where they received a ticket.
Baker tendered his resignation to Great Canadian a few days later. He is expected to cash around $ 28.7 million in shares from the sale of the company to private equity fund Apollo Global Management Inc.
Baker’s lawyer Jennifer Cunningham and Crown Attorney Kelly McGill have submitted a joint bid for the sentence. The Baker’s avoided jail.
“A lot of people may think that $ 500 is not enough, but it is the maximum that can be imposed here” apart from a maximum prison sentence of six months, the chief justice said Michael Cozens.
“When the tribunal is subject to a joint submission, the tribunal has an extremely limited ability to deviate from that submission”, unless the administration of justice is found to be compromised or the proposal is contrary to the public interest, Cozens said.
McGill said there were no similar cases where jail time had been imposed for COVID-19 violations and that the maximum fine was set at $ 500.
McGill listed aggravating factors such as the premeditation of the scheme involving a “high level of deception” and the harm done to the community of Beaver Creek.
Janet Van der Meer of the White River First Nation COVID-19 Volunteer Team submitted a victim impact statement. She said the community was “blinded” by the Bakers who showed a “superiority complex” and “contempt for human life”.
Van der Meer said the incident, which made headlines around the world, tarnished Beaver Creek and left community members feeling unsafe at other vaccination clinics.
A mitigating factor in the submission was that the Bakers immediately passed COVID-19 (negative) tests to show officials that no physical harm would result.
In addition, the Baker’s donated $ 5,000 to the COVAX Global Immunization Initiative.
Cunningham said the Bakers “apologize wholeheartedly for their actions”, although when the judge asked them if they wanted to go to court, they refused.
“To have no mercy,” Cunningham said, but the Bakers faced intense negative media coverage – a mitigating factor in the submission.
Cozens suggested to the Baker that the couple contact the First Nation directly and apologize directly. He considered the possibility of issuing a probation order, which could include community service, but ultimately agreed to the joint submission.
“There was no physical harm, but there was psychological harm,” Cozens admitted.
“Often enough [an apology] is one of the most important things that can be said.
“I’ll leave that to you.”
The Baker’s actions drew a sharp rebuke from BC provincial health worker Bonnie Henry.
“They should be ashamed of themselves,” Henry said Jan. 25.
Baker ran Great Canadian’s flagship casino in British Columbia, River Rock Casino and Resort, at a time when money laundering is said to have grown exponentially. Case under extensive review by Cullen Commission of Inquiry into British Columbia Money Laundering
The company has consistently accepted bags of $ 20 bills for years, but told the inquest that the matter was largely the responsibility of regulators and government investigators.
The investigation revealed that the company failed to report suspicious transactions to the federal reporting agency FINTRAC. The investigation also learned how Baker objected to investigators at the VIP tables.
The Bakers scheme raised questions about how Rod Baker was running the then-listed company.
“It’s a great question to ask, but I don’t have the answer to it,” said Christie Stephenson, executive director of the Peter Dhillon Center for Business Ethics.
But in general, Stephenson said, personal misconduct is a risk to the business.
“The abuse of power in the personal life of a business leader doesn’t necessarily mean there is wrongdoing in the workplace, but it can certainly be a red flag,” Stephenson said.
“So people who don’t have strong ethics in their personal lives could pose a risk to the business, as they may be less able to understand the types of negative consequences their business operations have on particularly vulnerable populations and therefore willfully or inadvertently engage in behavior that is not appropriate, ”Stephenson said.
The RCMP argued that the money flowing through casinos came from the deadly opioid trade and was facilitated by a Chinese transnational organized crime network working with Mexican cartels and local drug trafficking gangs.