Wednesday, April 14, 2021

British Columbia: David Eby says government still weighing public inquiry on money laundering

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Speaking to a Vancouver housing conference, Eby said British Columbians might be surprised if no new information comes from a public inquiry.

“I do worry that people, in the event of a public inquiry, will be disappointed,” Eby said. “It takes two years, you bring people in, there are occasional revelations but it turns out we knew a lot of this stuff.”

“Is it the best route forward? That is one of the debates we are having within government.”

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He said that an inquiry, which could cost between $10 and $15 million, “is at best about political accountability.”

“It is about who made the decisions, who benefitted from what has happened. Why did they make those decisions?” he said.

The second B.C. government report into money laundering by Peter German will likely be released within two weeks, Eby said, as well a report prepared by an anti-money laundering panel headed by former deputy minister and public policy professor Maureen Maloney.

“We have both those reports now. Cabinet will make a decision on a public inquiry,” he said.

Already the B.C. government has taken steps to close loopholes that allowed money laundering to flourish through B.C. casinos and has also introduced new legislation designed to expose nominee owners of real estate, Eby said.

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But, he said, most of the major changes needed to combat money laundering have to be made by the federal government.

“The big challenge provincially is that so much of this jurisdiction is federal,” he said.

“At the provincial level, we are really trying to figure out how we can do as much as we can here. There are some changes the feds have made as a result of the pressure we have put on them.”

He said a recently introduced criminal code amendment would allow those who may have unwittingly, but recklessly, participated in money laundering to be prosecuted.

“If you were reckless about whether or not you were being used as a tool for money laundering, you could find yourself facing criminal charges. The existing law requires that the prosecutors prove that you knew that these were criminal proceeds,” he explained. “That recklessness change is going to make a big difference.”

But he doesn’t expect a lot of criminal prosecutions in B.C. despite the serious problem. A finding in German’s most recent report, which was revealed earlier this month, was that there were few dedicated federal RCMP officers assigned to investigate money laundering in B.C.

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