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Secret ownership rampant in Vancouver real estate

House document with keys and pen (iStock)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Secretive methods such as shell companies were used to buy nearly half of Vancouver’s most expensive properties, according to a new report from Transparency International.

If you don’t know who owns a property, that can mean it’s easier for people to launder money or evade taxes, according to NDP housing critic David Eby, who supplied the documents used by the transparency watchdog for this report.

“If we don’t know where the money’s coming from, we don’t know who brought it in, because it’s held by a company rather than the individual who actually owns it, we’re unable to enforce money laundering rules.”

The documents show that 46 out of the priciest 100 Vancouver properties were bought under this shroud.

“They key recommendation in the report is to require, in the land title system, in British Columbia and all Canadian provinces and territories, and also in the corporate registries, that companies and trusts must be registered, and they must disclose who the actual beneficial owner is, who the true owner is of the property, or who the shareholders are, the beneficial true owners of the company, so that law enforcement, tax authorities, governments and journalists potentially have the knowledge to know where there are conflicts of interest, where there is tax evasion or money laundering, and we’re able to ensure that our real estate market, for example, isn’t being used to facilitate crime,” says Eby, who notes these changes would require a coordinated effort by the federal and provincial governments.

On the plus side, there are jurisdictions with more loose laws in this regard.

The report notes setting up an untraceable company is easier in Kenya.