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Ottawa pledges full co-operation for B.C. dirty money inquiry
Federal minister Bill Blair said Ottawa will fully participate in B.C.’s money laundering inquiry amid his own government's rejuvenated efforts to hold criminals responsible.
The minister who is tasked with reducing organized crime said he’s met with leaders in B.C. – including Premier John Horgan – and pledged the support of federal agencies as long as it doesn’t interfere with ongoing prosecutions or criminal cases.
Blair added that a proposed federal law would mean turning a blind eye to where large amounts of cash come from could land people in trouble. After recent reports on B.C.'s money laundering problem, he instructed Fintrac, the federal anti-money laundering agency, to take a deeper look at cash transactions in real estate and at casinos. That comes alongside an increase in resources tackling dirty money.
"I fully anticipate there'll be new investigations and new prosecutions arising from those new resources and those new authorities at the same time that the inquiry will be taking place," he told CTV News.
Getting thugs who launder money behind bars and out of the real estate market, casinos and the drug trade, which has costs thousands of lives in an ongoing opioid crisis, is exactly what Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West wants to see.
"We've had a whole lot of hang wringing," he told CTV News. "People we want something done."
West said he hears from those in his community and others who feel the province works better for international criminals than them. When a recent report revealed a conservative estimate of $5 billion laundered through B.C. real estate in a single year, he had a different reaction than some other politicians.
"Some people have said they're shocked," West said. "I'm pissed off. I'm angry."
He’s been among those calling for an inquiry into money laundering, and on Wednesday the premier announced an inquiry would go ahead with Commissioner Austin Cullen.
But West said he’d like the focus to be similar to the Charbonneau Inquiry in Quebec, which resulted in prosecutions and the recovery of money. At this point, B.C.’s inquiry seems more focused on political accountability.