City of Victoria joins call for probe into money laundering

Victoria has joined Richmond and Vancouver in calling for a public inquiry into money laundering in B.C.

Councillors Sarah Potts and Laurel Collins brought forward 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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“Polling shows that over 76 per cent of British Columbians support the province calling for a public inquiry,” Potts said.

She said local housing costs have exceeded local incomes, and an average of one person dies every four days of an overdose in the city.

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. An international report has pegged money laundering in B.C. at more than $1 billion annually.

“So it’s safe to say here the public trust has been badly damaged by the allegations of the money laundering in the province,” Potts said, adding that it’s “quite likely that hundreds of people are dead as a direct result of unprecedented criminal activity.”

Collins said the motion is a call for accountability.

“There have been years and years of astonishing corruption,” she said. “This motion really shows that the City of Victoria would like the people responsible for allowing it to continue to be held to account.”

Mayor Lisa Helps called money laundering “a really, really troubling aspect of a shadowy part of our economy.”

She noted it may be an issue that could be brought to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Premier John Horgan has dismissed an inquiry as premature and costly 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. Its report and recommendations are expected next month, as is a second report from German, focusing on the scale and scope of illicit activity in the real estate market.

Victoria’s resolution calls for the inquiry to be similar to Quebec’s Charbonneau inquiry into construction-industry corruption and to begin after German’s second review is completed.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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