British Columbia’s world-leading legislation to end hidden ownership will be featured as part of a special meeting in Vancouver focusing on anti-money laundering strategies across Canada.
“People in B.C. have paid the price for money laundering. It’s distorted our economy, fuelled the overdose crisis and driven up housing prices,” said Carole James, Minister of Finance. “But this is not just a problem here in B.C. Criminals don’t stop at provincial borders. This is a national issue, and strong action is required from the federal government and all the provinces to combat money laundering in our country.”
The meeting, on Thursday, July 13, 2019, will highlight efforts already underway in B.C. that could be replicated across the country. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss action required at the federal and provincial level, and share ideas and strategies for improved collaboration and co-ordination across all levels of government.
James and David Eby, B.C.’s Attorney General, will join Bill Morneau, federal Minister of Finance, and Bill Blair, federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction. Provincial counterparts from across the country will attend to discuss shared efforts to deter money laundering.
“B.C. is the leading jurisdiction for overdose deaths, luxury car sales and out-of-control real estate, all of which have been linked to our cancerous transnational money laundering problem,” Eby said. “At this summit, we will have one message: ‘Without a significant federal financial commitment to increased law and tax enforcement in B.C., hard-working families who play by the rules will continue to be at a disadvantage to criminals and cheats.’ That’s unacceptable.”
In May 2019, the Province launched a public inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia. It comes after three independent reviews revealed that each year billions of dollars are laundered through B.C.’s real estate market and other sectors of the economy.
The Province did not wait to take action. The B.C. government is addressing money laundering and tax fraud in the real estate market through several actions, including introducing legislation to establish Canada’s first public registry of beneficial owners to put an end to the hidden ownership of B.C. real estate. The Expert Panel on Money Laundering referred to beneficial ownership as the “single most important measure that can be taken to combat money laundering.”
Government is also acting on several recommendations outlined in Peter German’s 2018 “Dirty Money” report. Fifteen of the 48 recommendations have been implemented. Several recommendations are expected to be completed by the end of summer 2019.
* B.C.’s government has taken the following actions to address money laundering, tax fraud and to close loopholes in the real estate market:
* introduced legislation to establish Canada’s first public registry of beneficial owners to put an end to the hidden ownership of real estate in B.C.;
* established Canada’s first online register for pre-sale condo sales to track assignments;
* updated the property transfer tax return to uncover beneficial owners behind corporations and trusts;
* enacted legislation to allow information sharing with federal tax officials regarding the homeowner grant to improve tax enforcement; and
* strengthened property transfer tax auditors’ ability to take action on tax evasion.
* B.C.’s government has also taken the following actions to uncover the root causes of money laundering and to address this activity in other sectors of the economy:
* launched a public inquiry into money laundering activities in B.C., to be headed by Justice Austin Cullen;
* amended legislation to change the Gaming Control Act to begin the process of creating a stronger, more independent gambling regulator;
* implemented a source of funds declaration in B.C. casinos for all cash and bank draft/certified cheque buy-ins of $10,000 or more, in one or more transactions within a 24-hour period, which dramatically reduced the volume of suspicious cash transactions in this industry;
* revised the Civil Forfeiture Act to make it easier for police and the courts to seize the proceeds of crime;
* launched a review of luxury car exporters’ use of provincial sales tax refunds, and preparing plans to regulate the sector; and
* required post-secondary schools to review policies on accepting large amounts of cash.