VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The province’s inquiry into money laundering must be “fearless,” according to B.C. Attorney General, as the probe kicked off a months-long process meant to expose how dirty money has been funnelled through casinos, real estate and luxury cars sales.
David Eby made the comments at a press conference in Victoria as the hearings began with opening statements in Vancouver Monday.
He acknowledged the commission’s mandate prevents it from interfering with potential criminal cases – but said that shouldn’t prevent it from digging into the issue.
“The reality is that this commission cannot interfere with prosecutions or arrests that are simply not happening and, without the commission’s work, will never happen,” Eby said. “Shutting down lines of inquiry overly cautiously will undermine the overwhelming desire of British Columbians for a public airing of these matters.”
Eby making baseless claims: former minister
Eby also used the opportunity to call on former BC Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong to release uncensored cabinet documents relating to money laundering from his party’s time in government from 2001 to 2017.
According to Eby, the commission has asked for the documents, but de Jong wants to control which ones he hands over. While cabinet documents are traditionally kept secret, the Liberals could – and should – release all those requested by the commission, Eby said.
“MLA de Jong is the last person – perhaps the last person on earth – who should be taking on this task,” he said.
Eby said it is “highly likely that Mike de Jong had detailed, personal knowledge of the money-laundering scandal the province was facing from his time as finance minister. And yet, when he was minister responsible for gaming and finance minister, he either kept all of this secret or he was so bad at his job he had no idea any of this was going on.”
If de Jong doesn’t cooperate, the commission will likely have to seek a court order to obtain the documents, but the former minister could save it time and money by complying, Eby said.
But de Jong told NEWS 1130 that won’t be necessary because he and his BC Liberal colleagues are cooperating with the commission.
“I don’t know what [Eby’s] talking about,” he said. “We are working with the commission to make sure they have all the documents they want and require.”
De Jong said Eby’s comments show he is either interfering with the independent commission, playing politics or both.
“I think where Mr. Eby is revealing his bias and mischievousness once again is: he seems to have trouble with the concept that this is an independent commission and we’re dealing with the commission – not him – and that will continue to be the case.”
Author of money laundering reports watching closely
The Cullen Commission follows three reports commissioned by the BC NDP government since 2017. Peter German, who authored two of the reports, said he will be watching the new inquiry closely.
“There were a lot of startling findings. I think we’ve all seen the videos of the cash that was pouring in over a number of years in bags and boxes,” says Peter German, a retired senior Mountie.
“Certainly reports were being filed, and so forth, but it didn’t seem like there was any enforcement action by regulators or by police.”
In 2018 alone, it’s believed $5-billion was laundered just through B.C. real estate, and while German made a number of recommendations and interim suggestions to stem the flow of dirty money, he says the inquiry has a wider scope.
With files from CityNews Vancouver