B.C. money laundering inquiry might not lead to arrests: lawyer

B.C. Attorney General David Eby.							CHAD HIPOLITO  THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. Attorney General David Eby. CHAD HIPOLITO THE CANADIAN PRESS

The provincial government released two exhaustive reports on money laundering last week, with the most significant results from the expert panel led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney indicating that a year ago alone, an estimated $7.4 billion illicitly entered the province.

One of the reports by former deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney said $5 billion was siphoned into real estate in 2018, forcing the costs of homes up by at least five per cent.

"Even with many red flags, the problem of money laundering is bigger than we thought and more entrenched than we hoped", Eby told a news conference.

Premier John Horgan said Wednesday the impact of dirty money in the province was made clear by two reports released last week that the depth and magnitude of the problem was far worse than they had imagined.

The reviews highlighted the extraordinary levels of money laundering associated with the province's real estate market and other sectors.

Over the past year, the NDP government left the door open to calling such an inquiry as the public, municipal politicians and the province's largest public-sector union pushed for the process to begin. 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 global and domestic criminal groups and through B.C. casinos and real estate. Justice Cullen's final report is due in May, 2021, just months ahead of the next scheduled provincial election.

"A lot of good things can come of [probes], but before governments establish inquiries, they should first of all ask themselves: What questions need to be answered?" But he did not say if that would include voluntarily providing confidential cabinet documents that may be related to money laundering.

Horgan also cited the failed prosecution last November of alleged money launderers in a case involving Richmond-based money service business Silver International, which has ties to organized crime.

In a statement, Blair said Ottawa will "continue to work collaboratively" with Eby and German "on intelligence gathering and information sharing". "There is nobody in British Columbia that is not potentially compellable, the commissioner could certainly call individuals believed to be actively involved in money laundering". Despite their relatively flat housing markets, Manitoba and Saskatchewan combined were said to have more money laundering than B.C.

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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