B.C. government to hold public inquiry into money laundering
The Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate estimates that more than $7 billion in dirty money was laundered in B.C. in 2018 and that laundered money increased the cost of buying a home by about five per cent.
The provincial government will hold a public inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia that a recent report said has helped fuel the overdose crisis and driven up housing prices.
The decision to proceed with a commission of inquiry follows three independent reviews that found extraordinary levels of money laundering in B.C.'s real estate market and other sectors of the economy.
"From day one, our government has been working to tackle the housing crisis and fraud that went unchecked for over a decade, hurting people and B.C.'s economy," Premier John Horgan said. "We have taken decisive actions to combat money laundering, but questions remain and people in B.C. deserve answers. That is why we have decided to proceed with a public inquiry into money laundering in the province of British Columbia."
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin F. Cullen has been appointed to head the inquiry, which will look at the full scope of money laundering in British Columbia, including real estate, gambling, financial institutions and the corporate and professional sectors. He will also examine regulatory authorities and barriers to effective law enforcement of money laundering activities. He will have the ability to compel witnesses and order disclosure.
"This inquiry will bring answers about who knew what when and who is profiting from money laundering in our province," Attorney General David Eby said, noting Cullen will have the mandate, authority and resources to seek answers, “perhaps most importantly among people and organizations who refuse to share what they know unless legally compelled to do so."
The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia will deliver an interim report within 18 months and a final report by May 2021.
The Expert Panel on Money Laundering in Real Estate estimates that more than $7 billion in dirty money was laundered in B.C. in 2018 and that laundered money increased the cost of buying a home by about five per cent. That percentage could be significantly higher — upwards of 20 per cent — in areas like Metro Vancouver, where there is more money laundering activity.
"People are understandably shocked and upset about money laundering and it's not right that homeowners and renters are carrying the costs of crime," Finance Minister Carole James said.
Peter German's 2018 report, Dirty Money, described a history of money laundering and criminal activity in Lower Mainland casinos.
German’s report noted that, in 2004, the B.C. Liberal government and the RCMP created the Intergrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team to investigate crimes associated with gambling.
In January 2009, the enforcement team created a report warning of money laundering in casinos. Three months later, then-cabinet minister Rich Coleman eliminated funding for the unit.
His recently released follow-up report into money laundering in real estate, luxury cars and horse racing found thousands of specific properties worth billions of dollars were owned by individuals or entities with service addresses in high risk jurisdictions for money laundering. He also found that there was no agency or police force with adequate oversight or resources to investigate these suspicious activities.
The B.C. NDP government said nine of the 48 recommendations from the 2018 Dirty Money report have been completed, plus two additional interim recommendations from December 2017. Half of the recommendations are expected to be complete by summer 2019.