The Ontario government is calling on Ottawa to endow it with anti-money laundering funding.
In a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Ontario Finance Minister Vic Fedeli indicated the province was willing to establish a beneficial ownership registry, but appeared to put the onus for funding on the feds.
“Ontario faces similar challenges to B.C. and deserves equal treatment in allocation of funding,” the Globe and Mail reported Fedeli as saying.
“I propose a new task force dedicated to anti-money laundering measures in Ontario that would be federally funded proportionately to the B.C. initiatives.”
However, lawyer David Franklin is dubious about the seriousness with which the government says it’s willing to tackle the spread of dirty money. For starters, he believes the government knew that money was being laundered through B.C. casinos, but only decided to act after the story broke in the media.
“According to Peter German’s report [one of the two recent reports on money laundering in B.C.], the State of Nevada collects less in taxes from casinos than the government of B.C. does,” said Franklin.
Franklin also charges that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is responsible for the proliferation of dirty money in the country because he slashed the RCMP’s budget to fight organized crime by $500 million.
“The RCMP is the only entity that investigates money laundering and Stephen Harper shut it down when we had the financial crisis in 2007 to 2008,” continued Franklin. “The question is why did he eliminate the money from the budget? Because money laundering is foreign investment and every country in the world wants economic growth.”
That a beneficial ownership registry needs to be established in Ontario is a foregone conclusion, but there could another way both to prevent ill-gotten gains from permeating the country’s real estate market—and thereby drive up prices—and profit from it.
“They can make the RCMP into a profit centre for the government because now you’re bringing in $50 billion to $100b a year—we don’t know how much but that’s one of the estimates [C.D. Howe Institute estimates $100-130b is laundered in Canada every year],” said Franklin. “England and Wales passed the Unexplained Wealth Order. Under that act, if people can’t explain where the money came from to buy real estate assets, the real estate is forfeited. It’s seized by the government and sold.”
Franklin added that creating a whistleblower clause, which would entice the public to participate in identifying possible money laundering operations, would help the government profit from catching criminals.
“If the public sees a 20-year-old kid or a housewife living alone in a $10 million home, the public will start paying closer attention if they know they can get a reward.”