Law professor Maureen Maloney chaired an expert panel on money laundering in B.C. real estate. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. estimates $7 billion laundered in 2018, $5 billion in real estate

Foreign, underground cash may have pushed up average home price 5%

B.C.’s money laundering investigators have estimated $5 billion in money laundering in B.C. in 2018, added to the purchase and resale of luxury cars and other goods for a total of more than $7 billion in dirty money in a single year.

Reports on real estate and financial transactions released Thursday show a similar pattern with luxury cars, bought with cash or untracked foreign transfers, and then resold to cover the source of money. Investigators found luxury goods went beyond sports cars and condos to high-end pianos and other items that can be bought and resold.

B.C.’s activity was part of $47 billion in money laundering across Canada, according to computer models estimating the activity developed for former RCMP investigator Peter German and former deputy finance minister Maureen Maloney.

Maloney’s report notes that with the volume of untraced money, Canada and B.C. in particular are favoured locations for criminals to operate in. That increases the rate of drug trafficking that has fuelled the opioid overdose crisis, as well as pushing up the price of housing by an estimate five per cent in B.C.

READ MORE: Hot cars hide dirty money from organized crime

READ MORE: RCMP has ‘no’ dedicated investigators in B.C.

Attorney General David Eby vowed to close loopholes and improve enforcement as a result of the findings.

“Wealthy criminals and those attempting to evade taxes have had the run of our province for too long, to the point that they are now distorting our economy,” Eby said.

Other things used to conceal the source of cash or convert it to legitimate funds were buying and selling boats, purchases at auction houses, paying fees at colleges, as well as cryptocurrency and foreign credit cards that Canadian law enforcement has no way to check for the source of funds.

“In the past few years, Greater Vancouver has been at the confluence of proceeds of criminal activity, large amounts of capital fleeing China and other countries, and a robust underground economy seeking to evade taxes,” German’s final report says. “These three rivers of money coalesce in Vancouver’s property market and in consumer goods.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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