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.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Wildfire forces evacuation of homes between Summerland and Penticton

Emergency vehicles are at the scene near Sage Mesa, evacuation centre set up in Penticton

Morning Start: Water can freeze and boil at the same time

Your morning start for Thursday, August 6, 2020

Hunting cabins were built west of Summerland

Area around Darke Lake was once known as the Piggeries

COLUMN: COVID-19 contact tracing app offers innovative approach

App designed to help monitor spread of pandemic in Canada

Dry Lake wildfire now classified as held

Wildfire was burning out of control north of Princeton for three days

B.C. would not send students back to school if there was ‘overwhelming risk’: Horgan

Plan has left many parents across the province worried about their children’s safety

Face masks will be mandatory for customers at all Walmart locations

Requirement goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 12 across Canada

Community Foundation of South Okanagan Similkameen presents bursaries worth more than $40,000

Nine endowment funds provided bursaries to 20 students within region

Masks to be mandatory on BC Transit, TransLink starting Aug. 24

Both BC Transit and TransLink made the announcement in separate press releases on Thursday

Molotov cocktails thrown at Revelstoke home in arson attempt

The flames were extinguished before they spread

British Columbians worried as end of COVID-19 rental supplement looms

Single mom struggles as supplement was her saving grace

Fire at Marble Point near Sicamous now under control

Two days of work on the fire has reduced its size and controlled it

Driver rescued after car goes down embankment near Kelowna

The Kelowna Fire Department performed the high-angle rope rescue around 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 5

Arson suspected in several wildfires lit near Kootenay town

RCMP making progress in arson investigation of Marsh Creek fires

Most Read