VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Soon after putting casinos under the microscope to expose evidence of criminal behaviour, BC’s Attorney General is ready to do the same thing with high-priced housing.
David Eby says it’s part of an ongoing push to kill Vancouver’s reputation as a haven for money laundering.
“The fact that we don’t know who owns almost half of the most valuable properties in Vancouver, and we don’t know where the money came from, is really disturbing.”
He now wants former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter German to review suspicious activity in real estate.
“With alleged proceeds of crime, we’ve got some work to do and that’s why I’m asking Peter German to do a second phase of his review and we’ve not yet set out the terms of reference yet, but we’re very aware this issue needs to be addressed.”
Eby admits he’s concerned about criminals using real estate purchases to hide dirty money.
“If you look it up at the Land Title registry, it’s an owner like a housewife or a student or it’s owned by an offshore trust or a company, so there’s a lack of transparency.”
When he was in Ottawa on Tuesday seeking stronger support from the federal government, Eby described Vancouver as being infamous for money laundering.
“The bottom line for British Columbians is they want to know who’s owning the property and they want to know where the money’s coming from.”
The report German was hired to write in September on possible money laundering at local casinos is due Saturday, March 31st, but Eby’s already reporting a significant drop in suspicious cash transactions.
“Our February total was $200,000. The July, 2015 total for suspicious cash transactions was $20-million, so we’ve reduced it by a factor of 100, but I don’t believe that solves the problem. I believe that money is moved elsewhere.”
He says, as of January, all casino operators in BC must not accept more than ten thousand dollars cash without proof of where it came from.
“We’ve cut down by 100 times –literally– 100 times. Our measures are having effect, but I’m under no illusion what we’ve done is displace this cash to other areas of our economy and so, we need to make sure that we’re on top of wherever that cash is showing up.”
Members of the House of Commons finance committee are currently updating the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.
Eby’s told them more dedicated resources are needed to investigate evidence of fraud –not only in casinos and real estate, but even car sales.