$5 billion laundered through B.C. real estate in 2018, drove up home prices

A report that estimates $5 billion was laundered through British Columbia’s real estate market last year also lifts the lid on the extent of illegal cash moving across Canada.

Some $7.4 billion overall was laundered in B.C. in 2018, out of an estimated total of $47 billion in Canada, concluded the report by an expert panel led by former B.C. deputy attorney general Maureen Maloney.

The report is one of two released Thursday and says B.C. ranks fourth for money laundering among a division of six regions in Canada, behind Alberta, Ontario and the Prairies — collectively Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The report says the higher estimates of money laundering in Alberta and the Prairies may be “surprising,” but crime rates are rising in those provinces and illegal cash finds homes in jurisdictions where real estate is more affordable than B.C.

“What this report makes clear is this is not an issue simply for B.C.,” Finance Minister Carole James said at a news conference. “This is an issue for all of Canada. This is an issue for all jurisdictions.”

B.C. tabled legislation last month aimed at preventing tax evasion and money laundering by shining a spotlight on anonymous real estate owners hiding behind shell and numbered companies.

“The key here is we’re not waiting,” said James. “Yes, we need to work with the other provinces. Yes, we need to work with the federal government.”

Attorney General David Eby said money laundering is a national crisis and until recently the federal government was not paying proper attention.

Eby and Federal Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair have met in recent months to discuss strategies to fight money laundering.

“Wealthy criminals and those attempting to evade taxes have had the run of our province for too long, to the point that they are now distorting our economy, hurting families looking for housing, and impacting those who have lost loved ones due to the opioid overdose (crisis),” Eby said.

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