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Cullen commission into money laundering in British Columbia resumes today

May 25, 2020  By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — Money laundering in British Columbia will be under scrutiny again this week when a public inquiry resumes today.

Over the next 3.5 weeks, expert witnesses ranging from academics to police officers are expected to shed light on how dirty money is quantified and the regulatory models that are being used to fight it around the globe.

The B.C. government called the inquiry amid growing concern that illegal cash was helping fuel its real estate, luxury car and gambling sectors.

Opening arguments were held in February and the main hearings scheduled to begin in September will delve into specific industries.

Commission lawyer Brock Martland says the goal of this part of the inquiry is to create an under-standing of what money laundering is and the strategies other countries have used to get a grip on it.

The hearings are being streamed online.

Expert witnesses will include Simon Lord of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, RCMP Chief Supt. Robert Gilchrist of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Canada and Oliver Bullough, author of “Moneyland: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World.”

“The sort of game plan is to have the view from 30,000 feet,” Martland said.

The inquiry is being led by commissioner Austin Cullen. Attorney General David Eby has said he hopes it will answer lingering questions about how the criminal activity has flourished in the province.

B.C. also commissioned three reports that revealed B.C.’s gambling, real estate and luxury car industries were hotbeds for dirty money, but Eby said an inquiry will be able to dig deeper because it can compel witnesses to speak.

In February, the B.C. Real Estate Association told the inquiry that it supported the creation of a provincial land registry that identifies those buying property. It has also struck a working group to make anti-money laundering recommendations.

The B.C. Lottery Corp. said it has consistently reported suspicious transactions to Fintrac and pointed out unusual conduct to the gaming policy enforcement branch.

The corporation has also brought in measures to control or prevent the flow of dirty money since 2012, including creating an anti-money laundering unit made up of certified investigators and intelligence analysts.

And the Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns several B.C. gambling sites, also defended the company’s efforts to limit money laundering, telling the inquiry that criticism of the industry is unfounded.

A coalition of tax fairness groups told the inquiry at the time that hiding ill-gotten cash behind shell companies is so widespread in Canada it’s known globally as “snow washing.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2020

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