'Just one of my buddies': Accused real estate money launderer denies accusations
Glasses rest on a copy of Peter German's investigation report into money laundering in the B.C. real estate industry during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press)
Published Friday, May 10, 2019 12:56PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, May 10, 2019 4:24PM PDT
A man accused by the B.C. government in court of using real estate to launder drug profits in a case where police officers searching one home found about $60,000 in cash in a dryer tells CTV News the government has it wrong.
Stephen Hoy Pang Chan says there’s an innocent explanation for how he was able to pay down hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home equity line of credit in six months despite allegations in a civil forfeiture claim his average annual income was just $37,000.
And he says his trips to the offices of Silver International – an underground bank authorities say is connected to a scheme to launder millions using B.C. casinos and hundreds of Chinese bank accounts – were just social visits.
"The guy who owns Silver International, he’s just one of my buddies," Chan told CTV News over the phone. "For me to go up there once in a while, or one or two times in a week to up there, it’s just friends. We hang out. We have coffee and tea. We chit chat. And then they accuse me of being one of the customers. Which is not even true.
"They can assume whatever they want, but a person is still innocent until proven guilty," he said.
His lawyer, Bibhas Vaze, said it’s important that people understand the claims in the civil forfeiture case have yet to be tested in court.
"Mr. Chan is clear that he hasn’t engaged in that kind of conduct in the sense of doing anything that involves money laundering, or anything of that sort," Vaze said.
CTV News reached out to Chan as the B.C. government unveiled its new estimates of the scope of money laundering in this province: some $7.4 billion a year, $5.3 billion of that in real estate.
The staggering amounts add up to between two and five per cent of the province’s entire economy, the authors of two reports told a news conference Thursday.
Money laundering investigator Peter German described properties where the purchase didn’t line up with the occupations of the buyers, such as a student who purchased 15 condos in the same building for $2.9 million, and a homemaker who bought five luxury homes for $21 million.
Together, the money pouring into the real estate industry had the effect of raising prices by about five per cent, Professor Maureen Maloney concluded.
"We have noticed significant activity. A figure like five per cent, that’s a lot of flipping, a lot of movement, a lot of unusual sales, a lot of over market sales, private mortgages… It makes you wonder," German said.
"You sell a couple houses on the street and there will be an effect on others in the area."
In Chan’s case, authorities say in the civil forfeiture claim he bought one Richmond condo, paying an $84,000 down payment in cash, before selling it a year later.
The director of civil forfeiture claims Chan used $381,000 from a home equity line of credit on a house to buy a $750,000 condo in Kerrisdale.
He paid the rest in cash, and paid down the line of credit in six months, according to the claim.
Authorities questioned how that was possible, given that "an analysis of Mr. Chan’s tax returns from 2006 to 2012 determined that he had an average annual income of approximately $37,000," the claim says.
The RCMP allege logbooks at Silver International show Chan dropped off about $5.3 million in cash and withdrew about $2.2 million from the company, which authorities have accused in court of being an underground bank linked to an operation at B.C. casinos to launder millions.
Charges against the principals of the company were dropped last year, after a disclosure in the case that could have put an informant at risk, W5 has reported. The B.C. government is proceeding against the company in civil court.
Chan was spotted going in and out of Silver International with bags, envelopes or boxes by RCMP surveillance between August and September 2015 seven times, the claim alleges.
One of his properties was searched in 2015, finding around $60,000 in multiple currencies in a nylon bag in a dryer, the document says. Chan was arrested the next day and authorities claim he had $3,880 in Canadian currency on him.
Chan told CTV News he believes the RCMP intel, which he said used a code in logbooks at Silver International to connect him to the deposits, is inaccurate. He believes that he is being targeted because of the failure to criminally prosecute Silver International.
"I think it’s because I hang out with the people at Silver International at the time," he said.