B.C. receives two money laundering reports after reviews of real estate, cars

VICTORIA – The British Columbia government is examining two reports on money laundering that it hopes will help stop the flow of dirty money through real estate, luxury cars and horse racing.

The province commissioned two reviews in September amid “widespread concern about B.C.’s reputation as a haven for money laundering,” it said in a news release.

The first report is by an expert panel on money laundering and it recommends rule changes that would close loopholes in the real estate market and increase transparency on who owns property in B.C.

The other report is by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German and focuses on potential links between criminal enterprises and the real estate, horse racing and luxury car industries. He was asked to look at these sectors after he concluded a review last June on money laundering in Lower Mainland casinos.

The government said it will review both reports before making them public later this spring.

Finance Minister Carole James said money laundering is a serious problem in B.C.’s real estate market.

“Our real estate market should be used for housing people, not for laundering the proceeds of crime. That’s why we asked our expert panel to review our rules and regulations, and to offer concrete actions that we can take to clean up our real estate sector,” she said in a statement.

The Finance Ministry appointed the expert panel after two independent reports revealed the B.C. real estate market’s vulnerability to criminal activity and market manipulation, the government said in a release.

The panel, chaired by former deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney, reviewed public submissions, existing legislative frameworks, best practices in other jurisdictions and work that is underway by government.

German submitted his latest report to Attorney General David Eby.

His review looked at potential links between real estate activity and criminal enterprises, the use of lawyers’ trust accounts to mask sources of funds in real estate transactions and money laundering in the construction industry, including abuse of builders’ liens, the government said.

German also looked at connections between organized crime and money laundering in the horse racing and luxury car industries, it said.

The province said work continues on addressing all remaining recommendations from German’s first report, including analyzing options to create dedicated policing resources for gambling and money laundering, creating a model for an independent regulator and clarifying the roles of the regulator and the BC Lottery Corp.

The government has already implemented 11 recommendations and new policies and procedures have significantly reduced large cash transactions in B.C. casinos, it said.

Eby told reporters in Victoria on Monday that he hopes to release German’s new report as soon as possible.

“We have to go through and make sure that we’re not inadvertently disclosing information that could compromise a law enforcement investigation, that we’re not inadvertently defaming someone,” he said.

“We’re doing that as quickly and as responsibly as we can, because one of the reasons we commissioned this report was so that the public would know what’s been happening in British Columbia.”

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