Vancouver council passes motion seeking boost to anti-money laundering measures
Motion presented after concern over cash payments to city for fees including property taxes
Vancouver city council unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday looking at ways to step up efforts to combat money laundering and organized crime in its own backyard.
The motion, presented by NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova, directs staff to review whether the city has the legal authority under the Vancouver Charter to require businesses and individuals to produce audited financial statements when paying money to the city — and whether it can share that information with senior levels of government and law enforcement agencies.
It reflects De Genova's desire to prevent money from being laundered through cash payments to the city for property taxes and other fees, including business licences.
"We need to make sure that before we look outwards at businesses in the city … that we look at how we are collecting money," De Genova told council.
"It's very important that we're diligent that we don't have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy."
'Shocked' at cash payments
De Genova said she was "shocked" to learn that people could pay municipal taxes with cash and not have to meet any financial reporting requirements.
"I've seen an individual on two different occasions carrying in large sums of cash [to city hall] and, in one instance, they actually specifically asked me where they would be paying their tax and, more specifically, their empty home tax," De Genova told CBC News.
"I'm not necessarily saying that that's not above board, but we need to do what we can to be accountable," said De Genova.
The motion also directs Mayor Kennedy Stewart to write a letter to B.C. Attorney General David Eby pledging support for ongoing investigations into money laundering.
Huge scale of money laundering
The vote follows a series of revelations laying bare the enormous scale of money laundering in the province.
An independent report by former RCMP commissioner Peter German released last summer found that B.C. casinos "unwittingly served as laundromats" for the proceeds of crime.
Earlier this month, CBC News revealed secret reports that showed the amount of suspicious cash flowing through B.C. casinos could be up to $1 billion between 2010 and 2017 — about 10 times the amount in the German report.
Eby later said as much as $2 billion in dirty money was laundered through casinos and real estate in the Lower Mainland in one year alone.
OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle thinks council should go further and call for a full public inquiry into the connection between money laundering, real estate and the drug trade in the province.
She was planning to present an amendment to De Genova's motion calling for an inquiry but removed it, saying she would present it at council's next regular meeting to ensure a more "fulsome discussion."
"A public inquiry is an important next step in really rooting out corruption and rebuilding trust in government on these important issues," Boyle told CBC News in a phone interview.
City staff will report back to council with recommendations before the end of the year.