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Money laundering inquiry kicks off in Vancouver

Last Updated Feb 24, 2020 at 10:04 am PDT

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Summary

Months-long money laundering inquiry begins in Vancouver

The inquiry will dig into dirty money funnelled through B.C.'s casinos, real estate and luxury car sales

Opening arguments began on Monday, with the main hearings scheduled for this fall

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A months-long money laundering inquiry has started in Vancouver. The commission will into dirty money funnelled through B.C.’s casinos, real estate, and luxury car sales.

Opening arguments in the Cullen Commission were underway Monday ahead of continued proceedings in May. The main hearings are scheduled to begin this fall.

WATCH LIVE: Opening arguments in Cullen Commission

Since 2017, the provincial government has commissioned three reports that raised red flags about billions of dollars in dirty money being funnelled through B.C., and detailed the extent of the criminal activity. The man behind two of them says he will be watching the 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 were 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.

“The Cullen Commission has the powers that you would expect from a public inquiry — subpoena powers, witnesses, documents, et cetera — but they can also look at the fault issue. I was not asked to determine fault,” he tells City News.

Attorney General David Eby hopes the inquiry will answer lingering questions about how the criminal activity flourished in the province and identify those who allowed it to happen.

“There’s sort of a broad sense that something went very wrong in government, but the individuals who made the decisions — those specific people who were involved — have not really been held accountable,” says Eby, who has been demanding action on money laundering since he was an Opposition member.

He has pushed the federal government for solutions, including rewriting some Criminal Code sections to make it easier to prosecute those involved, but he says he’s been mostly disappointed with the response.

Premier John Horgan’s NDP government has made several changes since taking power in 2017, including the creation of a public registry of property owners so those investing in real estate can’t hide behind numbered companies. It has also pressed the federal government for action.

-With files from CityNews Vancouver