Special prosecutor decides against charges in B.C. money laundering investigation

Special prosecutor decides against charges in B.C. money laundering investigation
Premier David Eby speaks in Vancouver, on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. Charges won't be laid in one of British Columbia's largest money laundering probes, despite a government directive for a special prosecutor to conduct a second review of a police investigation.

No charges will be laid from a money laundering investigation into millions of dollars that moved through British Columbia casinos and Chinese bank accounts in what the province’s attorney general called a “frustrating” end to the multi-year police probe.

The B.C. Prosecution Service on Wednesday issued what is known as a “clear statement” from special prosecutor Chris Considine outlining why no charges would result from the police investigation known as E-Nationalize.

Considine, a senior Victoria lawyer, was appointed last March to conduct a second review of the case, after an earlier decision by the prosecution service that charge assessment standards had not been met and no charges would be approved.

The investigation concluded in 2021 with police proposing eight charges against Paul King Jin of Richmond, B.C.

But Considine concluded conviction was unlikely.

“While it is possible to identify on paper a theoretical legal path to conviction, my instincts tell me a prosecution is likely to founder,” says Considine’s clear statement.

“The public interest would not be well served by embarking on an expensive and lengthy prosecution that comes to naught.”

Attorney General Niki Sharma called the decision “frustrating,” but said the government had civil forfeiture and other laws to fight money laundering.

“We’re constantly as a government improving our ability to go after money laundering in this province,” said Sharma.

The prosecution service released a letter signed by Premier David Eby in November 2021, when he was attorney general, directing the Criminal Justice Branch to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct the independent charge assessment of the case against Jin.

Considine was subsequently appointed to make the charging decision “he deems appropriate in the exercise of his independent discretion,” said the prosecution service.

The clear statement, which refers to Jin as “Mr. X,” says the proposed charges included laundering currency and bank drafts, possession of property obtained by the commission of an indictable offence, and failure to register a money services business.

It says E-Nationalize, launched in 2016 by the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigations Team, identified 10 transactions between February and May 2017 in which about $20 million in bulk cash, bank drafts and casino chips were received and moved to clients, and more than $7 million was deposited in bank accounts in China.

“The investigation was lengthy and complex,” says Considine. “It included both covert surveillance and elements of an undercover operation. The tactical phase of the investigation concluded in June 2017, culminating in the execution of multiple search warrants and the arrest of several individuals without charge.”

He says the investigation yielded 41,877 documents, seized 90 smartphones and intercepted more than two million communications, of which the majority were in Mandarin.

Considine says in his statement a potential obstacle to prosecution was proving that illegal cash was involved in Jin’s unlicensed money services business, where many of the alleged transactions occurred.

“I am also concerned that the strong public interest in prosecuting money laundering is predicated on the very thing the Crown would be unable to establish, namely, that the money in question was ‘dirty money,’ he says.

Considine says his decision was “difficult,” but he had not been persuaded that taking the case to court would justify the cost, time and possible result.

“I fully appreciate the need to send a message that the Province takes money laundering seriously and that consequences will flow from the commission of such crimes,” he says. “I am concerned that a multi-year, multi-Crown, multimillion-dollar prosecution that results only in a non-custodial sentence may send the opposite message.”

Jin was represented by lawyers at the Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering in B.C. that concluded billions in illicit funds linked to organized crime and the drug trade had an effect on B.C.’s real estate, gaming and luxury vehicle sectors, but found no corruption by officials.

Former premier John Horgan appointed retired judge Austin Cullen in May 2019 to lead the inquiry.

This is the second large money laundering investigation in B.C. that has failed to yield charges.

Considine’s statement refers to the “somewhat similar” E-Pirate investigation by the federal Serious Organized Crime Unit of the RCMP. The probe that began in 2015 culminated in charges of money laundering being laid by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, but Considine notes these were eventually stayed in November 2018.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2023.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian PressDirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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