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Federal support to help B.C. crack down on money laundering welcomed by observers

Last Updated Aug 28, 2018 at 5:38 pm PST

FILE - BC Attorney General David Eby speaks to reporters on January 29, 2018. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Bill Blair has been asked by PM Justin Trudeau to further investigate money laundering linked to drug and gun crime

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Two months after B.C.’s Attorney General David Eby released a scathing report on money laundering in casinos, the province is getting some support from Ottawa.

Canada’s new minister in charge of reducing organized crime, Bill Blair, has been asked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to further investigate money laundering linked to the trafficking of drugs and guns.

Earlier this year, Eby asked Ottawa for help tackling the so-called ‘Vancouver Model’ of money laundering studied by former Deputy RCMP Commissioner Peter German. This was after he learned local casinos were being used as laundromats for dirty money and little was being done to stop it.

“What I’m really heartened by is the fact that the provincial government accepted all the recommendations,” German told NEWS 1130. “Implementation will take a while in terms of all of the recommendations, but my understanding is that they’ve moved fairly quickly on some of them.”

German says Blair, also a former police officer, has not contacted him yet, but he’s offering to help any way he can.

Bill Blair’s focus will be to cut down on gangs trafficking guns and drugs which have been linked to gamblers from China.

SFU criminologist Rob Gordon says that’s good, as long as Blair doesn’t get in the way of work already being done by Eby.

“Let’s hope that Blair just steps aside and lets the BC project go ahead. Figure out where the likely duplications are,” Gordon says about Ottawa’s role in the crackdown.

Past alerts to Victoria were not heeded

Peter Goudron, the executive director of the BC Gaming Industry Association, says past efforts to alert authorities often went unanswered and German’s report pointed that out.

“Operators had done everything that was required of them to try and raise that flag, and steps had already been taken to reduce the threat,” Goudron says. “But what’s really the positive here is that we see another level of government taking, you know, hopefully meaningful action.”

He adds fewer suspicious transactions are already being recorded and he’s pleased efforts are being made by the NDP government to crack down on money laundering and in other industries like real estate.

“Certainly not just within the BC gaming sector. I think Minister Eby characterized it as like a waterbed,” Gourdon recalls. “Press down on it in one area, it squeezes to another area, so it’s important meaningful action be taken throughout the economy.”

B.C.’s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth hasn’t been available for comment, but he has issued a statement welcoming any federal funding to restore the RCMP’s capacity to “investigate trans-national money laundering.”

In this province, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit is the main agency responsible for tracking dirty cash transactions linked to organized crime.

Last week, a poll of 800 British Columbians by Research Co. suggested that 76 per cent of people want to see a public inquiry into the money laundering at casinos and potentially the real estate market.

The poll also found almost 90 per cent of the participants also want B.C. to hire an Anti-Corruption Commissioner, following Quebec’s suit.