City of Victoria asked to join call for money-laundering probe

Victoria is being asked to add its name to a growing list of cities calling for a public inquiry into money laundering in B.C.

Councillors Sarah Potts and Laurel Collins are seeking support for a motion calling on the province to launch investigations into links between organized crime, money laundering and the overdose crisis, and into whether money laundering might have deepened the housing affordability crisis.

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Premier John Horgan has dismissed such an inquiry as unnecessary and costly.

The resolution is to be considered today. Potts and Collins note that Richmond has endorsed such a call and Vancouver is considering it.

Collins said she believes there is a connection between money laundering, fentanyl distribution and real estate.

“Even though we aren’t seeing the kind of money laundering in casinos here in Victoria, we do see impacts of fentanyl, we do see the impacts of the housing crisis, of people dying on our streets,” she said.

“So this is not only about money and crime and public trust but it’s about people who are dying.”

In a government-commissioned report titled Dirty Money, released last June, former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German estimated money laundering in B.C. amounted to more than $100 million.

Attorney General David Eby now says that number appears low, especially after the release of an international report pegging money laundering in B.C. at more than $1 billion annually.

But Horgan said it would be premature to commit to a lengthy and expensive public inquiry, given that the province is still awaiting two reports from independent experts.

An expert panel on money laundering in real estate is investigating gaps that have allowed dirty money to inflate house prices in B.C.

Chaired by Maureen Maloney, former B.C. deputy attorney general and a Simon Fraser University professor of public policy, the panel is expected to present its final report and recommendations next month.

Also expected in March is a second report by German focusing on the scale and scope of illicit activity in the real estate market.

“We have two individuals already in the field investigating money laundering in the housing sector, autos and horse racing,” Horgan said Tuesday.

“But before we hear from Mr. German and Ms. Maloney … I think it’s premature to talk about a public inquiry. I believe we have good, capable people who have experience in this area, that are working without fear of requiring numerous lawyers and years and years of hearings that may lead to no result.”

Only after reading those two reports will the government decide whether to take direct action or launch a more comprehensive inquiry, he said.

Horgan said he shared British Columbians’ disappointment when charges were stayed in B.C.’s largest money-laundering case, which came after a lengthy investigation by the RCMP called E-Pirate.

“We want to see, and I think British Columbians want to see, consequences for money laundering,” he said. “They haven’t seen that yet.”

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