Citing the phenomenon’s deep-running danger, B.C. Premier John Horgan has commissioned a two-year public inquiry into money laundering in the province, the government announced last week.
The Premier appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen to lead the inquiry, granting authority to “compel people to testify, seize records, and obtain search warrants,” The Canadian Press reported.
Cullen’s panel – which will particularly focus on examining how lapses among regulatory authorities or individuals “have contributed to money laundering in B.C. and whether those acts or omissions have amounted to corruption” – is scheduled to deliver an interim report within 18 months, with the final report due May 2021.
“It became abundantly clear to us that the depth and the magnitude of money laundering in B.C. was far worse that we imagined when we were first sworn in,” Horgan told reporters in a news conference.
Money laundering has been identified as a significant pressure distorting the provincial economy. Previous investigations estimated that around $7.4 billion in dirty money has been smuggled into B.C. last year alone, with much of the funds going through illicit channels such as casinos and real estate investment.
Research conducted by a group led by former deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney also found that approximately $5 billion was sneaked in through real estate in 2018, pushing residential property prices up by at least 5%.
Attorney General David Eby stated that the results of the Maloney study highlighted the seriousness of the issue. He further argued that the federal government has not appropriately addressed the problem until recently.
“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, hurting families looking for housing, and impacting those who have lost loved ones due to the opioid overdose [crisis],” Eby said.