After about eight years, there is still no clear resolution to what has been described as a massive money-laundering enterprise running rampant in British Columbia’s casinos. An official investigation has been underway in the province for the past several years and a push has begun to extend the investigation across the entire country. However, Canada federal officials only balk at the idea.
The federal minister for organized crime reduction, Bill Blair, said this week that a nationwide investigation isn’t necessary. The opinion comes in spite of the fact that the BC government, through its Expert Panel on Money Laundering in BC Real Estate, asserts that the problem in the province could be just a small part of a larger problem. That panel states that the province’s casinos and real estate markets were involved in laundering around CAD$7 billion ($5.2 billion) last year, but that the markets across Canada may have helped facilitate the laundering of as much as $47 billion ($34.91 billion).
The panel also believes that BC is not at the heart of the dilemma – that honor goes to Alberta. As much as $8 billion is estimated to have been laundered through the province in 2015, with additional activity seen in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
According to the panel’s chair, Maureen Maloney, “We thought, ‘No, we need to do this, because people need to know it’s not just a BC problem.’ It’s a big BC problem, but it’s everybody’s problem. And to the extent that BC starts fixing our problem or at least makes our province less enticing to money launderers, they’re going to go elsewhere. They’re not going to disappear.”
There is no real way to compute the amount of money that may have been laundered, so BC officials resorted to using a model called the gravity model. This estimates “dirty cash” flows based on factors such as gross domestic product per capita, crime rates and others.
Blair asserts that the problem has already been addressed on a national level and that Canada’s government has budgeted more money to thwart money-laundering activity. He adds, “From my perspective, we’ve already identified some very significant things that need to be done. It’s been ongoing work. These types of measures, I think, will send a very clear message that Canada is cracking down.”
Despite the assertion, there is still apparently an issue. Money is still being laundered in the real estate and casino markets and the BC Lottery Commission (BCLC) even recognizes that its efforts haven’t been enough. This month, the BCLC announced that it needs some assistance in anti-money-laundering control and that its efforts fighting the activity haven’t had their intended effect. If BC hasn’t been able to stop the illicit activity, although it has been the most active for the past four years, there’s little reason to believe that the nation is addressing the issue adequately.