Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair stands during question period in the House of Commons in West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Crackdown on money laundering does not include federal public inquiry: minister

An independent report commissioned concluded $7.4 billion was laundered in B.C. last year

The federal minister in charge of Canada’s fight against money laundering supports British Columbia’s public inquiry into dirty money but says a national examination is not necessary.

Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Tuesday money laundering is occurring across Canada and internationally, but the federal government has already started implementing measures to combat illegal money.

“From my perspective, we’ve already identified some very significant things that need to be done,” he said. “It’s been ongoing work. These types of measures, I think, will send a very clear message that Canada is cracking down.”

Blair said the most recent federal budget included extra anti-money laundering spending for the RCMP, Canada’s financial intelligence unit, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, and the creation of a task force to identify threats and loopholes.

The Canada Revenue Agency received funding to create four new residential and commercial real estate teams to hunt for money laundering in the property sector, he said. The government is also amending current anti-money laundering laws to better track who owns property and monitor property sales.

“We need to have a better understanding of who owns which corporations and who has money in there,” said Blair. “If someone comes in with a hockey bag full of cash, you can’t just pretend you’re indifferent and don’t know its origins. You have a responsibility of due diligence. For those who are reckless, there could be criminal consequences.”

READ MORE: B.C. holding public inquiry to track rise of money laundering

But the author of a recent C.D. Howe Institute report on money laundering says Canada is behind the times when it comes to fighting the crime.

Kevin Comeau’s report, “Why We Fail to Catch Money Launderers 99.9 per cent of the Time,” said Canada’s anti-money laundering policies are among the weakest of Western democracies and billions are laundered in Canada annually.

“It’s a 20th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” said Comeau in a telephone interview from Oakville, Ont.

The retired corporate lawyer said the amended federal legislation to track property ownership to discourage money laundering in the real estate sector is too weak because the valuable information to deter the flow of dirty money is not widely enough available.

“The whole idea of anti-money laundering is to shine as much light on it as possible so you can have other people viewing saying, ‘Ah-ha, there’s the bad guy’,” said Comeau. “Anything less than a public registry is saying we don’t want to bring it up to best standards.”

British Columbia’s government introduced legislation last month aimed at preventing tax evasion and money laundering by looking to identify anonymous property owners through a registry that will be public in 2020.

An independent report commissioned by the B.C. government concluded $7.4 billion was laundered in B.C. last year out of an estimated total of $47 billion across Canada. The report by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney said money laundering contributed to a five per cent increase in real estate values in the Metro Vancouver area in 2018.

A second report by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German said money laundering led to a frenzy of buying real estate.

B.C. Premier John Horgan called a public inquiry days after the release of the German and Maloney reports.

“I have assured them they will have our full co-operation in the conduct of their inquiry,” said Blair. “This is not a victimless crime. This is a crime that affects all Canadians. It affects the quality of our lives. It’s had an impact in B.C., but we can see its potential impact in other jurisdictions in Canada as well.”

READ MORE: B.C. must set clear terms, timeline if it holds money-laundering inquiry, expert says

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cyclist reportedly struck along Kinnaird Bridge in Castlegar

The bridge remains closed to traffic at this time

Mercer Celgar to temporarily lay off majority of Castlegar mill workers in July

The company said it’s possible that the workers could be laid off for more than a month

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Castlegar residents can access free FireSmart program

A wildfire mitigation specialist will visit your home and provide recommendations.

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Nature Conservancy takes in more lands near Canal Flats

Badgers, bears and birds to benefit from bolstering bunchgrass conservation in Rocky Mountain Trench

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Chilliwack dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Most Read