BC Government Announces Public Inquiry Into Money Laundering

Decision on money laundering inquiry to be announced today

Some $7.4 billion overall was laundered in B.C.in 2018, out of an estimated total of $47 billion in Canada, concluded the report by an expert panel led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney.

To carry out money laundering in real estate, criminals often used close relatives to buy then transfer real estate, the report said, adding with all those supporting facts, the risk of money laundering in the real estate sector was also high.

Premier John Horgan moved to act following three independent reviews that found money laundering in the province is worth billions of dollars annually.

"The inquiry will look at the broad scope of the problem and give us answers about who knew what, and when, and tell British Columbians who exactly is participating in, and profiting from, money laundering in our province", said the province's Attorney General David Eby. "That's why we established the public inquiry today".

Eby said Commissioner Cullen is to have the full powers under the Public Inquiry Act.

Examining regulatory authorities and barriers to effective law enforcement of money laundering activities will also be a key component of Cullen's duties, noted the government. Some experts consider the two intertwined, and have dubbed methods of money laundering in B.C.as the "Vancouver Model", for the way illicit drug proceeds flow from worldwide and domestic criminal groups and through B.C. casinos and real estate.

In addition to examining the regulations, Justice Cullen would also have the power to seek answers from witnesses.

Horgan said when he took office one of the first things his government did was to examine the sharp rise in the real estate market over the past few years, as well as the opioid crisis.

"Perhaps other governments were intoxicated by the revenues that kept coming in", Horgan said.

Christine Duhaime says the inquiry is mainly a fact-finding mission, although prosecutions could go ahead. Former cabinet minister Rich Coleman said he welcomes the opportunity to clear himself and his colleagues of any wrongdoing.

In a statement, Blair said Ottawa will "continue to work collaboratively" with Eby and German "on intelligence gathering and information sharing".

"We should just stop pretending that we're ever going to have public inquiries, if we don't have one into something that is as important and as consequential to the future of our province as this", West said.

Horgan said he will waive privilege for any BC NDP government decisions made in the 1990s. By this measure, B.C. ranked fourth for money laundering among six regions in Canada.

James said the B.C. government tabled legislation this spring aimed at preventing tax evasion and money laundering by shining a spotlight on anonymous real estate owners hiding behind shell and numbered companies.

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