British Columbia’s luxury car market is being used to launder the proceeds of crime, according to a report released on Tuesday by the provincial government.
The province released part of Peter German’s latest report looking at money laundering in the housing market, luxury vehicle market, and B.C. horse tracks.
“This report is disturbing confirmation that money laundering in B.C. is a problem that goes beyond our casinos,” Attorney General David Eby said.
“In the luxury car market, there is no financial reporting of large cash purchases, no oversight of international bank wire transfers and no apparent investigation or enforcement. It’s all a recipe for exactly what happened here, Vancouver becoming North America’s luxury car capital, generally, and perhaps North America’s used luxury car export capital too.”
The 47-page chapter released on Tuesday morning found car dealers in B.C. reporting that individuals were bringing bags of money or orchestrating multiple small international wire transfers to different accounts to buy cars.
The report describes the use of “straw buyers” who help facilitate the purchase of vehicles between sellers and exporters. As part of those transactions there has been a rapid and dramatic increase in the use of the provincial sales tax refund, which applies to vehicles purchased in B.C. to be sold abroad.
According to the provincial government, the PST was rebated on 3,674 vehicles in 2016. Since 2013, almost $85 million in PST refunds have been paid by the government for the export of vehicles. The source and destination of the funds is unknown.
“We have not waited to take action on this report. The Ministry of Finance is reviewing Dr. German’s findings, as well as vehicle exporters’ use of the PST refund program,” Eby said.
“Details of allegations made in the report have been forwarded to police, ICBC and the Vehicle Sales Authority. We are also preparing plans for regulation of the luxury car sector. Our government is committed to stamping out money laundering and the damage caused by organized crime – and building an economy that works for people in B.C.”
The provincial government was unaware of the excessive use of the program and Eby says he was surprised to see the results from German’s investigation.
“Vancouver has an international reputation for being a desirable location for the activities of organized crime,” German said.
“Our review of these sectors has shone a spotlight on how significant money laundering is in B.C., including in the luxury car sector… I hope the report provides a window into money laundering in our province because it is a problem that can no longer remain unchecked.”
German also looked into money laundering at B.C. horse tracks and found no substantial proof of laundering of funds through horse race gambling.
German found that horse racing is not currently high risk in terms of money laundering, but is vulnerable due to the absence of reporting to FinTRAC, a lack of staff training, and a lack of regulatory and law enforcement oversight.
The province hired German to conduct a widespread investigation into money laundering. The full report will be released “imminently” and will focus mainly on the effects of laundering in the housing market.
The provincial cabinet is currently looking at the issue of a public inquiry into money laundering. Eby says that decision will come “soon.”
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