British Columbia’s Attorney General David Eby said Canada needs to overhaul how money laundering is enforced, a day after the province released reports revealing a wide-reaching money-laundering problem in the country.
“We have an issue that involves multiple jurisdictions: federal, municipal and provincial,” Eby said in an interview with BNN Bloomberg’s Andrew Bell on Friday, adding that banks and lawyers are also involved in suspicious real estate transactions.
“So, certainly there are many different sectors that we need cooperation and support from to deal with this. But, ultimately it will come down to government and enforcement.”
His comments come after two reports commissioned by the B.C. government revealed a wide-reaching money-laundering problem in Canada, with activity highest in Alberta followed by Ontario, the Prairies — collectively Saskatchewan and Manitoba — and B.C.
One of the reports, led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney, estimates that $7.4 billion was laundered in the province in 2018, $5 billion of which was funneled through the real estate market which pushed home prices up five per cent. It found that money-laundering activity is highest in Alberta, followed by Ontario, the Prairies — collectively Saskatchewan and Manitoba — and B.C.
“The numbers are much higher, I think, than even the most cynical of folks were thinking in terms of where the money was coming from in our real estate market,” Eby said.
Eby outlined a number of high-profile money laundering examples including a case of one home that had 29 mortgages “paid off back-to-back.”
“There are some really unusual things happening in our real estate market. This report [gives] us some idea of the scope of those issues and the impact of a lack of enforcement and oversight and data collection,” Eby said.
“The fact that this work hasn’t been done before and it was done with a very small team with limited resources, with public access, public-sourced data, tells you what could be done with police-level data.”
B.C., for its part, is tightening up on rules for disclosing real estate ownership. Eby said there are two bills that have been presented to the provincial legislature that aim to unmask the real owners of both businesses and homes.
“No more owning a home with a numbered company and a lawyer [as] the sole director of the company,” he said.
“We will know the real owners of each home. And if false declarations are made, the penalties are quite serious.”
With files from The Canadian Press