New evidence suggests that dozens of Metro Vancouver real estate firms are failing to adhere to anti-money laundering laws.
Vancouver’s hectic, high-priced real estate market can be a great place for money launderers to ply their trade, which is why federal financial regulators decided to investigate 80 realtors and real estate brokers.
“Nobody is watching the henhouse other than the foxes,” BC NDP Leader John Horgan said. “(Housing minister) Rich Coleman has said over and again, ‘We’re in touch with the market because we talk to the Real Estate Board.’ That’s important but we need more than that.”
Of the 80 realtor offices investigated by the federal money-laundering watchdog, 55 had significant or very significant deficiencies when it came collecting key information from buyers.
Financial crime lawyer Christine Duhaime said there could be hundreds of realtors in the same boat.
“Had they done a greater analysis of many more realtors they would have found, I think, the same parallel where 70 to 75 per cent are not compliant,” she said.
The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada tracks attempts to launder money in Canada. Realtors are required to fill out a FINTRAC form for every transaction.
FINTRAC’s non-compliance cases in Vancouver have quadrupled from a year earlier.
Premier Christy Clark said she is “disturbed by what we’ve heard from FINTRAC about a failure to disclose.”
“Now you should know that we are sharing tax information with the federal government,” she added.
Randall McCauley of the Canadian Real Estate Association said they are working with individuals to make “sure they are as familiar with the rules as they need to be so they can comply with the legislation and the regulations.”
“They say it’s complicated, they say it’s expensive and it is both of those things,” Duhaime said. “But you and I comply with the law all the time and they need to do so as well.”
– With files from Ted Chernecki and The Canadian Press