Pubdate: Tue, 20 Feb 2018
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Mike Smyth
Page: 6


B.C. has become a haven of drug-dealing and money-laundering that's
killing hundreds of people from overdoses and pricing homes beyond the
reach of law-abiding citizens.

That's the view of Attorney-General David Eby, who's promising bold
action to purge B.C.'s casinos and hyper-inflated real-estate markets
from the influence of criminals.

"We have an international reputation that's in tatters," Eby told me.
"We will clean it up. My goal is to have B.C.'s international
reputation back on track."

He's referring to media reports of money-laundering in B.C. casinos
and in Metro Vancouver real estate, especially by drug-dealers
peddling deadly fentanyl.

Citing the work of Postmedia News reporter Sam Cooper and The Globe
and Mail's Kathy Tomlinson, Eby said major changes are coming.

"One of the real concerns I've had since taking office is the lack of
infrastructure to detect, prevent and prosecute financial crimes -
money-laundering, fraud - especially money-laundering in real estate,"
he said.

"That's the opportunity for us: to start setting up that
infrastructure so it's somebody's job to ask the question, 'Where is
the money coming from?' "

He said he was shocked by discovering the scale of the problem since
the NDP took power last summer.

"I've certainly been very concerned about people showing up with what
are euphemistically called 'bulk-cash transactions' - duffel bags full
of $20 bills - at casinos and what appeared to me to be a potential
link to real estate."

One of the big problems: A loophole-riddled system in which officials
don't know who owns nearly half of the most-expensive residential
properties in Vancouver.

"We actually need to know who owns property in British Columbia," he

"You can't have a numbered company or a trust registered in the Cayman
Islands. We actually need to know who owns the property in order to do
the tax-evasion, anti-money-laundering work that needs to be done to
ensure our housing market is not being used as a safe-deposit box for

I asked him if successive B.C. governments simply ignored the problem
as they creamed off billions of dollars in casino profits,
property-transfer taxes and donations to political parties.

"Whether it was intentional or just the most remarkable negligence
imaginable, clearly government did turn a blind eye to this," he said.

Taking a shot at the former Liberal government, he promised the first
steps in tackling the problem will be contained in Tuesday's budget,
though a complete fix won't happen quickly.

"It might take up to four years to really clean up the mess they made
in 16," he said.

Political potshots are common in B.C. What's needed now is something
more rare: the political courage to fix the problems. A bold, clear
start would be welcome in the budget.
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