B.C. Attorney General David Eby and former RCMP investigator Peter German deliver portions of report on money laundering at the B.C. legislature, March 7, 2019. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press Media)

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

First it was $1 billion a year (maybe) being laundered through Lower Mainland casinos and real estate. Then it became $5 billion (maybe) in real estate alone for 2018.

These dramatic, expanding estimates have persuaded Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby to put aside their serious concerns about cost and a lack of actual charges against actual crooks, and reluctantly agree with a strange chorus demanding a public inquiry into B.C. money laundering.

Eby and Finance Minister Carole James finally released two thick investigation reports this month, trying to quantify the “dirty money” in B.C.’s economy. You may have heard the most shocking conclusion, that billions were (maybe) poured into Metro Vancouver real estate, pushing up housing costs by (maybe) as much as five per cent.

The real estate report, from a panel of academics headed by former NDP deputy minister Maureen Maloney, weighed in at 184 pages. As fellow academic Murtaza Haider pointed out, “the report does not identify a single laundered dollar or account with laundered money or even a single purchase of property purchased using ill-gotten wealth.”

It used computer models and international estimates of crime, going back as far as 1995, extrapolated to Canada and then its provinces.

RELATED: Federal government won’t do its own money laundering inquiry

RELATED: Bring on B.C. money laundering probe, MLA Rich Coleman says

Contracted investigator Peter German’s first “Dirty Money” report dealt with B.C. casinos, estimating that laundering through them may have been as much as $100 million. No one really knows, because among other things, high rollers return to gamble their winnings, running the same money through again. (After all the attention on the River Rock Casino in Richmond, German now allows that this activity has mostly disappeared.)

German’s second report, among its 360 pages, deals with a Global TV news story last November. It quoted an unnamed police source saying money laundering may be 10 times as big as previously estimated, up to $1 billion in 2016 alone. Eby frequently cites this story, and indeed has developed a fawning mutual admiration society with Global TV for its supposedly ground-breaking work.

Responding to German’s inquiries about this TV story, the RCMP allowed that it has classified reports with similar estimates of real estate activities. It refused to release them even to German, himself a former senior RCMP investigator.

German’s conclusion, based on limited disclosure of RCMP data gathering methods, is this:

“The figures now in common parlance are of $1 billion or more per year of dirty money being ploughed into B.C. real estate, and of equally large sums being laundered through casinos. Unfortunately, without actually quantifying these amounts using a generally accepted model and having access to the necessary data, all estimates are guesses.”

The RCMP further contradicted this TV story, saying its still-classified report of high-end real estate purchases over two years does not focus on organized crime actors and does not measure money laundering. In short, this award-winning TV story was bogus.

In an odd move, Global TV joined the B.C. Green Party, the B.C. Government Employees Union and other partisan actors in the chorus of demands for this inquiry. Horgan and Eby had given many solid reasons why a long lawyer festival with no authority to lay charges would be a waste of time and millions.

But now they’ve decided it’s a great idea to stage an inquiry that will put previous government members on the stand, just months before the next scheduled election in the fall of 2021. They’re hoping for compliant TV coverage of that too.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

OPINION: The more walkable a city, the more liveable it is

New pedestrian advocacy group, Walk in Nanaimo, being formed

Homelessness Action Week a call for citizens to see the issue in a new light

Homelessness Action Week Oct. 13-19 includes coffee talk, facility tours, film screening

Nanaimo Clippers thankful after three straight wins on road trip

City’s junior A hockey club wins seventh in a row, trades alternate captain

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Empower court system, RCMP to curb crime

Justice system gives free rides to repeat offenders, says letter writer

Nanaimo Ladysmith school district deciding how best to provide menstrual products for students

Early cost estimates tag $75,000 for product dispensers; trustees seek student consultation

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

Proposed 76-unit residential development would neighbour north Nanaimo mall

Council approves first and second reading of re-zoning application for 4961 Songbird Pl.

Map on Elections Canada site sends voters to Cedar landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

Nanaimo software designer creates hunting-themed card game

Duck Buck Moose involves skill, cunning and luck of the draw

Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates compare, contrast platforms on debate stage

Energy policy, veterans’ affairs and more debated Thursday at Beban Park

City council mulls emergency medical responder training for firefighters

Council directs staff to prepare report on firefighter medical training upgrades

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Most Read