B.C. Attorney General David Eby says the collapse of what may be the largest money-laundering case in Canadian history is “disturbing.”
And he hinted that the end of a federal case against alleged B.C.-based money launderers could open the door to a public inquiry on the role of money laundering in B.C. casinos.
“One of the reasons we gave for not pursuing a public inquiry was that there was an active criminal investigation and active prosecution happening related to these matters,” Eby said Wednesday.
He noted that a provincial criminal investigation remains underway that could still lead to charges, and that former Mountie Peter German is still working on his own probe of criminal groups and money laundering.
“But I have to say, one of the major reasons for not taking that step disappeared today, and I don’t think British Columbians’ interest in getting to the bottom of this has disappeared in any way. If anything, it’s been amplified,” Eby said.
WATCH: PoCo mayor says feds & province have been ‘spineless’ about organized crime operating in B.C.
Earlier on Wednesday, new Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West renewed the call for such an inquiry, pointing to a Global News investigation that revealed links between real estate, casino money laundering and the opioid crisis.
Eby was responding to news that emerged Wednesday that charges in the RCMP’s so-called E-Pirate probe had been stayed.
The investigation involved Richmond-based Silver International Investments, and was launched in 2015. Police had suspected an underground banking operation was processing drug money and then laundering it through B.C. casinos.
WATCH: The criminals fuelling Canada’s fentanyl crisis
But while the case was meant to go to trial in January, RCMP has confirmed all charges were stayed last week.
“It is a disturbing signal that a prosecution of this magnitude collapses before going to trial,” Eby said.
“I want to be clear that I am not blaming police, I am not blaming federal prosecutors, I am not blaming the federal government but I think we need to know what went wrong because something obviously went terribly wrong.”
The RCMP has not revealed why the charged were stayed, and would only say that it was due to several reasons that emerged during the course of the file.
A review is now being conducted to identify what police activities may have contributed to the case’s collapse.
“What I can say is that at this stage, we have to figure out why this is happening, why it is that we appear unable to prosecute successfully this crime and these criminal activities that are alleged to be taking place in British Columbia,” Eby said.
Eby said he’s asked staff in his own ministry to review its conduct to see if there were any issues related to actions within the provincial jurisdiction.
He said he’s also asked for a briefing from federal prosecutors and a meeting with his federal counterpart to discuss the failure of the case.