British Columbia needs more resources to fight money laundering, says Attorney General David Eby, who released part of a report that says there are no federal Mounties dedicated to working illicit cash investigations in the province.
Eby said Monday he’s troubled that the report by former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German found the only dedicated RCMP money laundering resources in B.C. are tied to the provincially-funded Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team, which patrols activities at casinos.
“Despite two years of headlines about this issue, there are apparently no federally funded, dedicated police officers working on money laundering in B.C.,” said Eby, who stood alongside German at a news conference. “It is a disturbing piece of information and it’s an obviously troubling piece of information.”
The details come in the partial release of German’s second money laundering report, commissioned last fall by Eby to review the use of illicit money in B.C. real estate, horse racing and luxury vehicle sales.
German’s initial report, released last June, concluded the province’s gaming industry was not prepared for the onslaught of illegal cash at the facilities and estimated more than $100 million was funnelled through the casinos.
The latest review found 26 federally funded positions at the RCMP’s E Division headquarters in Metro Vancouver under the umbrella of the integrated Federal and Serious Organized Crime Force, but not one of those was dedicated to money laundering investigations.
“Money laundering is a lot more than casinos, and obviously the issues we’ve looked at in the second review involve real estate, luxury cars and so forth,” German said. “That’s the issue. You’ve got a provincial unit dealing with the casino money laundering. You’ve got nothing else out there right now.”
Eby said he sent German’s report to Bill Blair, the federal minister responsible for organized crime.
Blair, who met with Eby at least three times this year about co-ordinating federal and provincial responses to money laundering, said he will continue to collaborate with Eby and German.
“Our government takes the threat posed by money laundering and organized crime to Canada’s national security and the integrity of our financial sector very seriously,” said Blair in a statement on Monday.
The federal budget includes funding to create a multi-agency task force to battle money laundering.
Eby said he wants to see a significant shift in how law enforcement approaches the issue at the federal level, with police officers dedicated to the file.
No one from the RCMP was immediately available for comment.
B.C. Opposition Liberal critic Mike Morris said the former government raised concerns about federal police staffing levels on money laundering teams at least twice when he was solicitor general, “but the RCMP was very slow in meeting their resourcing demands in B.C. and across Canada.”
Morris said the B.C. government could decide to hire more RCMP officers rather than wait for the federal government.
Last year, an international anti-money laundering agency said organized criminals used an underground banking system in B.C. to funnel up to $1 billion annually from the proceeds of crime through casinos.
Finance Minister Carole James said she is preparing to publicly release an expert panel report by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney that looked to identify and close regulatory gaps in the real estate and financial sectors that could be exploited by organized crime groups.
Story by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press