British Columbia

'Rat's nest of rot': Up to $2B in dirty money laundered in B.C. casinos, real estate in 1 year, AG says

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said in one year, as much as $1 billion of suspected drug money passed through B.C. casinos and another $1 billion was pumped into luxury real estate in the Lower Mainland, contributing to a red-hot property market and putting homes out of the reach of many.

David Eby's new figure dwarfs initial estimates on scope of money laundering

Surveillance video shows bundles of $20 bills dumped at a B.C. casino in an example of apparent money laundering. B.C. Attorney General David Eby said at the height of the problem, $2 billion of dirty money was laundered through B.C. casinos and real estate. (B.C. Ministry of Attorney General)

B.C.'s attorney general is raising the stakes on the scope of alleged money laundering in casinos and real estate in British Columbia.

David Eby now says dirty money totalling as much as $2 billion in one year flowed into B.C.'s legal and illegal casinos and luxury real estate market.

Eby said in one year, up to $1 billion passed through casinos and another $1 billion was pumped into real estate in the Lower Mainland, contributed to a red-hot property market and putting homes out of the reach of many.

"I started pulling on the thread of this casino laundering that was taking place and it has led to a real rat's nest of rot, really, in the system," Eby told CBC News in an exclusive interview.

"I think that all British Columbians should certainly be concerned about what's been happening, including, potentially, at a very high level in the real estate market."

Attorney General David Eby likened the problem of money laundering in B.C. to a "rat’s nest of rot." (CBC)

Last week, CBC News revealed secret reports that showed the amount of suspicious cash floating through B.C. casinos was as much as $1 billion spread out over seven years — about 10 times previous estimates.

The money was likely the proceeds of crime — drug money — that had to be laundered through legitimate sources to obscure its origins.

Dwarfs initial estimate

Eby's Friday claim of up to $2 billion in dirty money marks a stark increase from an estimate given by former RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter German last the summer.

After the release of his independent report into money laundering in the province's casinos, he estimated more than $100 million may have been cleaned in B.C. amid a "collective system failure."

Eby chalked that up to "a difference of approach." German, he explained, was tasked with writing a quick report that could lead to immediate changes to stop money laundering in casinos.

"We didn't ask him to sit down and do an accounting exercise," Eby told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko. "We knew there was an issue and he helped us with that."

If German had more time for his report, Eby believes, he would have found a larger amount of laundered cash.

Inquiry not ruled out

Eby says some of the new numbers come from an RCMP intelligence report that has not been fully shared with the province.

He described the information-sharing relationship between the federal and provincial levels as "frustrating." Since the alleged money laundering has an international component, he explained, the federal government needs to be a dependable partner.

"This is a very serious issue and I believe an issue of national concern," Eby stated. "These are staggering numbers. Incredibly troubling."

Rows and rows of single-family homes are seen in this aerial shot of Vancouver.
Metro Vancouver real estate is alleged to be an avenue used by gangsters for laundering drug money. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

However, he believes both Ralph Goodale, the minister of Public Safety and Bill Blair, minister of Organized Crime Reduction "get it."

Eby said he has a meeting with Blair next week and cooperation on money laundering will be top of the agenda.

B.C. Liberal government displayed "significant willful blindness" on the file, Eby accused.

A public inquiry into how money laundering flourished in B.C., he added, has not been ruled out.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast