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Start of testimony in B.C. money laundering inquiry still months away

Last Updated Sep 14, 2019 at 8:37 pm PDT

Glasses rest on a copy of Peter German's investigation report into money laundering in the B.C. real estate industry during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, May 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The two-year deadline for completion hasn't changed, but the process is still in the "study" stage

Senior commission counsel Brock Martland says the next step involves public meetings this Fall

18 groups have already applied for standing as witnesses

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –Testimony at B.C.’s money laundering inquiry may not start before the Spring of next year.

The two-year deadline for completion set earlier this year hasn’t changed, but Senior commission counsel Brock Martland says they’re still in the “study” stage and the next step involves some public meetings this Fall.

“[We will] reach out to the people of the province in a number of affected communities and hear from them about what they see as the biggest concerns and issues and the kinds of things the public and the people feel our inquiry should look at.”

He says hearings before independent Commissioner Austin Cullen, who was appointed on May 15th, are still months away because the witness list has to be finalized.

“We don’t have firm decisions about who is or isn’t on a witness list….The bulk of those hearings are likely to be in the Fall of 2020. There may be some hearings that happen in the Spring of 2020.”

Cullen, the recently-retired associate justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, has the power to subpoena witnesses who might be reluctant to testify.

Martland says, at this point, there’s no reason to believe anyone has to be forced to testify.

“There’s some engagement and trust in the commissioner and the process that we’re running. Of course, if someone’s sort of hiding from our view and we haven’t noticed yet, or that hasn’t become apparent yet, that might be something we come across later in the process.”

Martland tells NEWS 1130 –so far– 18 applications have been made by groups or individuals seeking status approval from Cullen.

“So the first part of that is that the commissioner will make a decision and issue a ruling, decide who is granted that status.”

He adds he’s still confident the May 2021 wrap-up deadline can be met.

“Key for us in completing this within the time of our mandate focussing on the critical and the important issues –if the evidence is in and the hearings are done, we still have about half a year to complete the final report.”

While Cullen has the power to force witnesses to testify, he can’t approve criminal charges.

Any evidence of misconduct must still be investigated by police.