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

For Central Saanich couple, fight against MS is a matter of family

Altenkirks sell greeting cards and wooden bowls to raise money for MS Society

Victoria feels the pinch at the pump as gas prices jump 18 cents

Gas up to 157.9 cents per litre at some stations

Oak Bay win first Bridgman Cup since 1973

Annual UVic event is an indicator for coming South Island finals, Island finals and provincials

‘Panda’ Goodlife runner searches for his head

Facebook post for help leads to ‘unconfirmed panda head sightings’

Saanich staff recommend rejecting ALR exclusion of former Royal Oak golf course

Finial decision rest with Agricultural Land Commission

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Registered massage therapist admits professional misconduct

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

VIDEO: Bear spies on cyclists riding by on Campbell River street

Riders seem unaware the bruin is mere feet away on the side of the road

Most Read