B.C. to probe money laundering ‘red flags’ in real estate, horse racing

Two government reviews will dig deeper into possible money laundering in British Columbia, expanding the province’s scrutiny beyond casinos.

The reviews are aimed at stopping the possibility of money laundering in other sectors of the province’s economy, which were cited in a June report by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German, who concluded the practice was happening in the provincial gaming industry.

money laundering
The B.C. government is set to review reports of money laundering in real estate and horse racing. Photo by Bon Bahar.

“We can’t ignore that red flag,” Attorney General David Eby said Thursday. “We won’t ignore it.”

Finance Minister Carole James said: “It’s important for us as government to say we aren’t going to accept that illegal activity.”

The reviews will focus on the possibility of money laundering in real estate, horse racing, luxury vehicles and the financial services sector, Eby said.

The first review is being done by the Ministry of Finance into real estate and financial services sectors. German will conduct the second review, which will focus on identifying the scale and scope of illicit activity in the real estate market, as well as whether money laundering is linked to horse racing and the sale of luxury vehicles.

There is widespread concern about B.C.’s reputation as a haven for money laundering, said Eby.

German’s original report said B.C.’s gaming industry and the system intended to combat money laundering were not prepared for an onslaught of illegal cash flowing through the casinos and they failed collectively. He estimated more than $100 million was funnelled through casinos.

Eby said he is concerned that money launderers could possibly move their activities to other sectors of the B.C. economy now that much of the movement of large amounts of cash at casinos has been halted.

“It’s essentially a game of whack-a-mole, I’ve said before, with money launderers,” he said.

Eby said the new reviews, due in March, will follow German’s concerns about sectors beyond gaming while the Finance Ministry will look to identify and close regulatory gaps that could be used by money launderers.

Maureen Maloney, a former deputy attorney general, was appointed chairwoman of an expert panel on money laundering in real estate, said James.

“It really is an opportunity to do specific cases, to follow the money and to look at where the gaps are and to look at the system and closing those gaps,” she said.

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