The Current

Tackling money laundering in B.C. is like a game of 'whack-a-mole,' says AG

The B.C. government introduced legislation this week to curb tax evasion and money laundering, which comes on the heels of a pledge from Ottawa to create a multi-agency task force to tackle the problem on a national scale, but will it be enough?

B.C. government introduced legislation this week to curb tax evasion and money laundering

Money laundering in B.C. is a billion-dollar problem, says the province's Attorney General David Eby. (CBC)
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Money laundering in B.C. is a billion-dollar problem, says the province's Attorney General David Eby.

But pinning down where the money comes from has become a complex game of "whack-a-mole" thanks to the increasingly complex given the "imaginative" methods the criminals use.

"We've seen everything from people moving it in suitcases, duffel bags — and in a very Canadian example, a hockey bag," he said.

"There was an allegation that people were using fisheries licenses and fishing quota," he said.

Money laundering is a Canada-wide problem, but its presence in B.C., is particularly pervasive because of the "Vancouver model of money laundering," said Eby.

People who work hard, pay taxes ... are at a significant disadvantage to people who are cheating.- B.C. Attorney General David Eby

In the "Vancouver model," he explained, wealthy visitors from China make arrangements with criminals to launder money into B.C., beyond the amount they're normally allowed by the Chinese government to bring overseas.

In China, yuan conversion into foreign currencies is restricted to the $50,000 US ($66,935 Cdn).

"The government spent a lot of time and money trying to attract wealthy individuals from around the world to come to Canada, including to British Columbia, but then they didn't provide these individuals with any legitimate way to get their money out of their home countries. And so these arrangements arose," Eby said.

'We are an international hub for money laundering,' said B.C. Attorney General David Eby. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

A report issued last summer by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force highlighted B.C. money laundering activities totalling more than $1 billion that was not fully known by the provincial government.

Some of the laundered money was used for real estate purchases, but the report also found links to "drug money, illegal gambling money and money derived from extortion to supply cash to Chinese gamblers in Canada."

The ripple effect of this, according to Eby, has left many B.C., residents unable to afford a house because of the criminals they're competing against.

"People who work hard, pay taxes and contribute to the community are at a significant disadvantage to people who are cheating," he said.

The B.C., government introduced legislation this week to curb tax evasion and money laundering by creating Canada's first public registry of property owners. The new database is designed to stop anonymous owners from hiding behind shell and numbered companies.

The new laws come on the heels of a pledge from Ottawa to create a multi-agency task force to tackle the problem on a national scale.

To discuss B.C.'s dirty money problem, guest host Piya Chattopadhyay chatted with:

  • David Eby, Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, serving as Attorney General.
  • Chris Walker, the president of About Business Crime Solutions.
  • Christine Duhaime, a financial crime lawyer.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


With files from The Canadian Press. Produced by Jessica Linzey.

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