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No federally funded police dedicated to money laundering investigations: report

Money laundering through B.C. casinos has been widely reported. (via Shutterstock)

The federal government has no dedicated police officers actively investigating money laundering in B.C., according to a new report from special investigator Peter German.

“The absence of dedicated federal resources undertaking criminal money laundering and proceeds of crime cases is of great concern,” noted German, a former senior RCMP officer, in a news release.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said at a news conference Monday (April 8) this discovery explains why so few money laundering cases have been investigated or prosecuted in the province despite an international reputation for such activities and a high level of media and public interest.

There are some RCMP officers handling money laundering cases connected to illegal gaming, by way of the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team (JIGIT). But that team is funded mostly by the B.C. Lottery Corp. and handles all aspects of illegal gaming and criminal activity around gaming. It also falls under a provincial funding agreement with the national police force.

JIGIT, which has 16 officers, has operated out of the RCMP’s Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit – largely dedicated to tackling gang activity – since April 2016.

As for money laundering investigations in other sectors, there appears to be no strictly federal presence at all, said Eby.

Eby said the discovery comes from simple questions posed to the RCMP, the answers to which disclosed that only five of 26 positions within the Federal Serious Organized Crime branch are actively staffed (six are absent from duty). And those five officers are only referring potential criminal cases to the B.C. Civil Forfeiture Office.

“In my experience, I’m wondering what five people can do. The answer: not so much. And it turns out they’re dealing with civil forfeiture,” German told reporters Monday.

The report, which examines money laundering in real estate, horse racing and luxury vehicles, was partially released April 8. The report must still be fully vetted by stakeholders, he said.

“We have accelerated the release of this portion of the report so that the federal government and the public are aware of what is happening to police the international crime groups laundering money through our provincial economy,” said Eby in a news release. “What is happening is nothing.”

The report outlines how money laundering has taken a back seat to terrorism threats, corruption cases and austerity measures.

The Integrated Proceeds of Crime Sections had dealt with money laundering until it was disbanded in 2013.

“After the federal restructure within the RCMP, the IPOC unit became a lonely place, populated by the officer in charge and two other persons, who were tasked with closing the unit and then moving over to the new FSOC,” German reported.

Eby said the 2019 federal budget gives him hope money laundering in all sectors will be enforced.

However, “every single dollar in the federal budget for anti-money laundering needs to come to B.C. yesterday,” Eby said.

Eby said a decision to conduct a public inquiry into money laundering will come after the report is fully analyzed and then released to the public.

— Graeme Wood, Business in Vancouver