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Money laundering report finds no federal Mounties dedicated to B.C. investigations

Last Updated Apr 9, 2019 at 9:38 am PDT

FILE PHOTO (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130 Photo)

New money laundering report finds there are no dedicated RCMP officers to investigate money laundering in B.C.

B.C.'s a haven for money laundering because there are no federal Mounties dedicated to fighting it: David Eby

Attorney General David Eby demands more support from Ottawa following Peter German's latest money laundering report

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – There are no federal Mounties dedicated to investigating money laundering in B.C. That’s one of the shocking findings from an independent report looking into this issue for the provincial government.

“It’s a startling piece of information and it’s an obviously troubling piece of information,” Attorney General David Eby said.

Eby adds the lack of dedicated RCMP resources to fighting this kind of crime continues despite the issue being in the headlines for two years.

He says most money in the federal budget to tackle this type of crime should come here. “Those people who work hard, pay taxes and play by the rules are competing with people who don’t.”

It is funded, in part, by proceeds of deadly fentanyl and it’s driving up real estate prices, so when you put it all together, it is a giant mess. That’s why we need police officers … It seems strange to have to say that out loud.There are only five officers and those five officers are all working on civil forfeiture.”

The new report by former high-ranking RCMP officer Peter German comes less than a year after his first, which exposed money laundering vulnerabilities at B.C. casinos.

“This all comes from the RCMP itself,” German said. “We simply asked a few questions about what their resourcing was — both their federal and provincial business lines with respect to money laundering. How many dedicated resources do you have working on money laundering?”

German says the answer was 25 positions plus a civilian analyst federally. Only 11 of those positions are staffed. “I was told that really it’s only five due to training, illness, various issues.”

He adds those five members are referring cases to civil forfeiture.

Eby says the “urgent release” of this section of German’s report highlights a “very concerning piece of information about why it is, in part, we’ve seen so few investigations and prosecutions of money laundering in B.C. despite their being a widely recognized problem, an international problem, of large scale money laundering taking place, especially in Metro Vancouver.”

The province is calling on the federal government to immediately allocate the resources promised in the budget to tackle money laundering in B.C., as well as build an experienced team to work on the issue quickly.

“Given that we know the money launderers are here, that they’re already rich, they’re already experts, and they’re clearly better resourced, we need to not start from scratch on this. We need for the people who come to British Columbia, the police officers who come to British Columbia, to have experience, and that there should be effort to recruit people with experience and expertise in this area to come and work on it urgently.”

Again stressing that the findings of German’s report are “incredibly disturbing,” Eby says any Canadian who’s been paying attention to the issue “will be incredibly surprised to hear this news.”

German says under the former Conservative government, the RCMP moved dedicated officers out of a proceeds of crime division.

Around 2013, the RCMP abolished its specialized proceeds of crime section,” he said. “There are a lot of reasons for it. One of them was a move towards terrorism investigations — a restructuring — that is entirely a federal issue.”

“My own personal background was in the financial crime world in the RCMP — and we did have dedicated commercial crime, proceeds of crime, and market enforcement teams. But like I said, there was a restructuring … Not to say things were perfect before, by any means. But the loss of dedicated teams and the specialists in 2013 — not to say there are no specialists left — but you don’t have that same core units. I think that has posed a lot of problems.”

Meanwhile, members of three B.C. based police agencies are offering assurances their work continues to stop money laundering.

Staff Sergeant Lindsay Houghton says the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia, Organized Crime Agency of B.C. and Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team are agencies independent of the RCMP.

He adds since it was created in 1999, the OCABC has added 32 dedicated police officers and more than 200 civilian staff.

Bill Blair, the federal minister responsible, insists changes are coming. “The investments that we are now making to address this, I think, quite adequately and appropriately re-dresses some of those deficiencies that have gone back over a decade.”

“What we’ve seen in the past decade is significant resources but back from the RCMP, diminishing their capacity to conduct these investigations. We’ve recognized that that deficiency … and have been working very hard to restore their ability to do this important work.”

He adds a second report from German — examining luxury car sales, horse racing and real estate — will be released in stages over the next few weeks.

BC Liberals defends its record on the file

Given many of the disturbing revelations about money laundering happened while the BC Liberals were in power, there have been criticisms it didn’t do enough to stop the flow of dirty money.

But pointing to an increase in anti-gang spending, solicitor general critic Mike Morris insists that government he was a part of did take the issue seriously — pointing to two meetings in Ottawa he held with the RCMP commissioner.

“I asked that they need to do everything they can to not only fill the federal positions that were vacant, but also the number of provincial positions that we had that were vacant, as well.”

“Our federally mandated issues were being ignored and a number of our provincial and municipal detachments were under-resourced, as a result,” he said.

As for the question of whether we need a public inquiry, Morris is concerned it could jeopardize investigations under way.

 – With files from Cormac MacSweeney