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B.C.'s dirty money inquiry resumes this month despite COVID-19

Last Updated May 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm PDT

(iStock/alfexe)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Evidence hearings for The Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia are going ahead, as planned, May 25.

Commission Counsel Brock Martland says the schedule has been fine-tuned, so witnesses can testify via video-conferencing instead of a courtroom in downtown Vancouver.

“We’ve got around 18 different participants –parties with standing and then, we would work our way through what I sometimes describe as a messy version of a trial in the sense that you have so many different lawyers and participants, but we would have witnesses and documents and evidence,” Martland says.

He admits the arrival of the pandemic threw everyone off-guard, but many mock trial sessions have been successful and certain witnesses might find it easier to testify online.

“For some people, absolutely it may, and we’ve always intended that when we were doing court hearings to have them live-streamed.  Now that will look a bit different with the display of a few faces on the screen.”

Martland says, despite a few delays linked to the pandemic, BC Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen is still on track to deliver an interim report in November.

“Some busy courtroom lawyers don’t have a trial coming up in two months or whatever else was occupying their time and in some cases, we have people that are better able to plug in and to cover ground.  In other cases, especially with government agencies, there’s been significant impact.”

He also tells NEWS 1130 hearing start times have been adjusted, so they start at 9:30 a.m. and wrap up every weekday by 2:00 p.m.

“In part, because a number of the lawyers have kids at home and other responsibilities that they’re now juggling.”

Martland adds testimony was always going to be live-streamed to make sure media and the public have access.

More hearings are set to start in early September and the final report is due this time next year.

The inquiry was ordered in May of 2019 by Premier John Horgan to “look at the full scope of money laundering in British Columbia, including real estate, gaming, financial institutions, and

the corporate and professional sectors.”

Cullen, who will also review regulatory authorities and barriers to law enforcement, has the power to compel witnesses and order the production of documents and records.